Category Warbirds

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Strategic Bomber; Tanker; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 174 feet, 4 inches; length, 169 feet, 7 inches; height, 46 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 166,975 pounds; gross, 423,280 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,944-pound thrust Mikulin RD-3M-500Aturbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 620 miles per hour; ceiling, 44,950 feet; range, 7,705 miles

Armament: 8 x 23mm cannons; up to 19,842 pounds of nuclear weapons

Service dates: 1956-


he impressive M 4, often touted as “Russia’s B-52,” was in fact a strategic white elephant. In­capable of bombing the United States, they found useful employment as tankers and reconnaissance craft.

Vladimir M. Myasishchev was a senior engi­neer with the Petlyakov design bureau until the end of World War II, when he was summarily told to re­tire. Having prior experience with the Soviet gulag system, he dutifully slipped into obscurity to teach aeronautics until 1949, when Stalin personally or­dered him to create his own design bureau. Mya – sishchev suddenly found himself tasked with creat­ing a huge intercontinental jet bomber capable of dropping atomic bombs on the United States and re­turning safely! Given the primitive nature of jet tech­nology at that time, the Tupolev rival firm opted to utilize turboprop engines instead. However, Mya­sishchev performed as ordered, and in 1954 the pro­totype M 4 Molot (Hammer) made its dramatic ap­pearance during the annual May Day flyover. It was a sight calculated to send shivers down the spines of

Western observers. The M 4 was huge, possessed swept wings and tail surfaces, and mounted four gi­gantic Mikulin turbojet engines buried in the wing roots. By 1956 around 200 of the giant craft had been delivered and constituted the bulk of Soviet strate­gic aviation. For many years thereafter, U. S. defense experts strained over the prospect of countering the Soviets’ intimidating “B-52.” NATO code named it BISON.

In reality, the M 4 possessed only half the thrust and range of Boeing’s B-52, a true interconti­nental bomber, and was scarcely a strategic threat. The Soviets understood this perfectly and continued building seemingly obsolete Tu 95 turboprop bombers for many years thereafter. By the 1960s the aging Myasishchev giants were employed only as tankers and maritime reconnaissance craft. One ex­ample, the VM-T Alant, was given twin rudders and employed to haul oversized parts for the Soviet space program. A few M 4s remain in service as test vehicles. Literally—and figuratively—the massive Molot was a big failure.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 10 inches; length, 34 feet; height, 12 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 6,636 pounds; gross, 11,464 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,800-horsepower Nakajima Mamoru radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 235 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,100 feet; range, 1,237 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun; 1,764 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1938-1945


he stately B5N was the world’s best carrier – based torpedo-bomber during the initial phases of World War II. Although somewhat outdated, it sank several thousand tons of U. S. warships.

In 1935 the Imperial Japanese Navy sought quantum improvement in its torpedo-bombers, issu­ing specifications for a new all-metal monoplane. The new craft had to reflect stringent requirements: less than 50 feet in wingspan, capable of carrier stor­age, with at least four-hour endurance fully armed. The following year a Nakajima design team under Katsuji Nakamura conceived the B5N, which first flew in 1937. It was a low-wing monoplane with stressed skin and a long greenhouse canopy housing three crew members. It also possessed widetrack landing gear for ease of landing, and had extremely smooth lines. The B5N proved somewhat underpow­ered but entered production the following year. They performed well against weak Chinese defenses as a light bomber, but clearly a stronger engine was needed. By 1939 new versions with the Sakae 11 ra­dial engine were produced, with little overall im­
provement. However, the gentle-handling B5N, once teamed with the Long Lance torpedo, a notorious shipkiller, was a weapon of great potential. At the onset of the Pacific war in December 1941, B5Ns formed the core of elite Japanese carrier aviation. They received the Allied code name Kate.

The deadly effectiveness of the B5N was un­derscored during the attack on Pearl Harbor when 146, flying as light bombers and torpedo craft, sank eight U. S. battleships. Thereafter, in a succession of naval engagements that ranged throughout the eastern Pacific, Kates were responsible for sinking or severely damaging the carriers USS Lexington, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet by October 1942. But Japanese forces were severely pummeled in these affairs, and the Americans slowly acquired air superiority with better fighters. Thereafter, Kates became easy targets and suffered severe losses until 1944, when they finally withdrew from frontline service. Several were then fitted with radar and performed antisubmarine patrols until the war’s end.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Torpedo-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 10 inches; length, 35 feet, 7 inches; height, 12 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 6,636 pounds; gross, 12,456 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,850-horsepower Mitsubishi MK4T Kasei radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 299 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,660 feet; range, 1,085 miles Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun; 1 x 1,764 pound torpedo Service dates: 1944-1945


he rugged Jill, as it was known to the Allies, was a tardy entry to World War II intended to replace the earlier and more famous Kate. A capable ma­chine, it was continually beset by engine problems and inexperienced crews.

By 1939 the Imperial Japanese Navy realized that a replacement of the aging B5N torpedo-bomber was becoming a military necessity. The naval staff then approached Nakajima and suggested a new craft, based upon existing designs, that would employ the widely manufactured Mitsubishi Kasei radial engine. The ensuing B6N was then developed by Kenichi Mat – sumura, who took the liberty of powering it with the company’s new and untested Mamoru engine. This air­plane showed strong family resemblance to the B5N and sported its big engine in an oversized cowling. An­other unique feature was the oil cooler, which was off­set to the left so as not to interfere with torpedo­launching. Tests revealed the plane to be faster than the old Kate but less easily handled. Furthermore, the B6N suffered from prolonged development because
the Mamoru engine vibrated strongly and tended to overheat. It was not until 1943 that these teething problems were resolved and the B6N could enter pro­duction as the Tenzan (Heavenly Mountain). The B6N was superior in some technical aspects to the Grum­man TBF Avenger and Fairey Barracuda, but by then the Japanese navy was in dire straits.

The B6N, code named Jill, was a fine torpedo platform, but it was deployed at a time when the Americans enjoyed total air superiority. Moreover, sheer size restricted it to operating from the biggest carriers, and it frequently went into battle bereft of fighter escort. Consequently, in a succession of bat­tles ranging from Bougainville to Okinawa, most B6Ns were shot down before ever reaching their tar­gets. Once all Japanese carriers were lost, they were further restricted to operating from land bases. By 1945 the tide of war had inexorably turned in Amer­ica’s favor, and many Jills were converted and flown as kamikazes. A total of 1,133 of these formidable machines were built.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Reconnaissance; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 55 feet, 8 inches; length, 39 feet, 11 inches; height, 14 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 10,670 pounds; gross, 18,043 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,260-horsepower Nakajima NK1F Sakae radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 315 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,580 feet; range, 2,330 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1943-1945


he J1N1 was a lumbering, unspectacular ma­chine but did useful service as a high-speed re­connaissance craft. It was later crash-converted into a night fighter but flew too slowly to impact B-29 raids.

The ongoing war with China convinced Japa­nese naval officials of the need for a strategic fighter capable of escorting long-range bombers. By 1938 they could point to the French Potez 63 and German Me 110 as examples of what then seemed a promising new technology. Specifications were then issued for a three-seat aircraft possessing tremendous range and firepower while retaining maneuverability equal to single-seat fighters. Kat – suji Nakamura of Nakajima conceived such a craft that first flew in 1941. Called the J1N1, it was a big twin-engine fighter with a low wing and a two-step fuselage to accommodate a pilot, observer/naviga- tor, and tailgunner. Another unique feature was the remote-controlled twin barbettes mounting four machine guns. In flight the big craft demonstrated good speed and handling, but it was in no way com­
parable to a fighter. The navy then decided to strip it of excess equipment for use as a high-speed re­connaissance craft. Thus, in 1943 the J1N1 entered service as the Gekko (Moonlight); Nakajima manu­factured 477.

The Gekko was first encountered during the later phases of the Solomon Islands campaign and failed to distinguish itself in its appointed role. The Americans, who perceived it as a fighter of some kind, bestowed the code name Irving. At length Commander Yasuna Kozono of the Rabaul garrison suggested fitting the big craft with oblique 20mm cannons to operate as a night fighter. Several air­craft were so modified and enjoyed some success against B-24 Liberators. Consequently, the majority of J1N1s were retrofitted to that standard. The fuse­lages were cut down to accommodate two crew members, and they were fitted with 20mm cannons and AI radar. Most Irvings flew in defense of the homeland but lacked the speed necessary to engage high-flying B-29s. Consequently, most spent their final days employed as kamikazes.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 8 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 2,447 pounds; gross, 3,946 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 710-horsepower Nakajima Ha-1otsu radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 265 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,190 feet; range; 389 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1937-1945


he lithe and comely Ki 27 was quite possibly the most maneuverable fighter plane of all time. It was built in greater quantities than any other Japa­nese prewar aircraft.

As in Italy, Japan’s predilection for maneuver­ability in fighter craft outweighed all other tactical considerations. In 1935 the Imperial Japanese Army announced specifications for its first monoplane. Of three contenders, the Nakajima design triumphed based on its startling agility. It was an all-metal, low – wing aircraft employing stressed aluminum skin and flush-riveting. It also featured streamlined, spatted landing gear and the army’s first fully enclosed canopy. The machine was also extremely compact, representing—literally—the smallest fuselage and biggest wing that could be designed around a Naka­jima Kotobuki radial engine. Flight tests revealed it was highly responsive and even more acrobatic than existing Japanese biplanes. It was also somewhat slower than comparable Western machines, a fact that maneuver-oriented Japanese pilots chose to ig­nore. In 1937 the new machine entered into service
as the Ki 27. During World War II Allied intelligence assigned the code name Nate.

No sooner had Ki 27s arrived in China than they swept the skies of outdated Chinese aircraft. In 1939 fighting also flared up between Japan and the Soviet Union along the Mongolian border. Ki 27s saw much hard fighting against Polikarpov I 15 bi­planes, usually with good results, but they were at a disadvantage when opposing faster I 16 mono­planes. To improve pilot vision, later models had a cut-down canopy. Production ceased in 1940 after a run of 3,999 machines. When the Pacific war com­menced in 1941, Ki 27s were conspicuously engaged at Malaysia, the Philippines, and Burma. They easily mastered obsolete Allied machines in those theaters but were less successful against faster Curtiss P-40s of the Flying Tigers. After 1942 Nates were with­drawn from frontline service in favor of the more modern Ki 43 Hayabusas. Most were relegated to training and home defense squadrons, but after 1945 many surviving Ki 27s were impressed into kami­kaze service.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet, 6 inches; length, 29 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 4,211 pounds; gross, 5,710 pounds Power plant: 1 x Nakajima Ha-115 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 329 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,745 feet; range, 1,988 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 551 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1941-1945


he nimble Ki 43 was the most numerous Japa­nese army fighter despite an inherently limited design potential. Rendered obsolete by modern Al­lied fighters, it remained in frontline service to the bitter end of World War II.

In 1938 the Imperial Japanese Army staff began considering a replacement for the Nakajima Ki 27 fighter and asked Nakajima to comply. As before, they sought an aircraft with peerless maneuverabil­ity, even at the expense of speed, firepower, and pilot protection. A design team under Hideo Itokawa ad­vanced plans for a craft based upon the Nakajima Ki 27, one that was thinner and possessed retractable landing gear. It was a handsome, low-wing mono­plane of extremely light construction, but it was rather low-powered. Subsequent modifications in­cluded bigger wings and combat “butterfly flaps” that greatly enhanced performance and handling quali­ties. One notable weakness was the armament that, to save weight, was restricted to two rifle-caliber ma­chine guns. Nevertheless, the Ki 43 entered the ser­vice in late 1941 as the Hayabusa (Peregrine Fal­
con), possibly the most maneuverable fighter in his­tory. Only 50 Ki 43s were on hand when the Pacific war broke out in December 1941. They nevertheless proved quite an unpleasant surprise to the unsus­pecting Allies, who christen it the Oscar.

The Ki 43 debuted during the successful Japa­nese conquest of Singapore and Burma and swept aside all the Hawker Hurricanes and Brewster Buf­faloes it encountered. They had tougher going against Curtiss P-40s of the Flying Tigers, which re­fused to engage them in a suicidal contest of slow turns. Soon it became apparent that newer and more powerful versions of the fighter were needed, so the Oscar II employed a larger engine, two 12.7mm ma­chine guns, and a three-blade propeller. These new versions retained all of the Hayabusa’s legendary maneuverability. However, by 1943 they were hope­lessly outclassed in the face of new and better Allied machines. Lacking a replacement, Oscars remained in frontline service until 1945, the most numerous Japanese army fighter of the war. Production peaked at 5,919 machines.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet; length, 28 feet, 10 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 4,614 pounds; gross, 6,598 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,520-horsepower Nakajima Ha-109 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 376 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,745; range, 1,056 miles

Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1942-1945


ike the J2M Jack, the Ki 44 was one of few Japa­nese aircraft designed specifically as an inter­ceptor. It acquired limited success in that role but never enjoyed much popularity among its pilots.

In 1939 the Imperial Japanese Army staff broke with tradition by agitating for interceptor fighters that placed speed and climb over time-hon­ored qualities of maneuverability. Nakajima com­plied with a prototype somewhat based upon its Ki 43 Oscar, which made its maiden flight in August 1940. The new machine, the Ki 44, was a low-wing monoplane as before, but it possessed stubby wings and a bulbous cowling over a large Nakajima Ha-41 radial engine. It was also heavily armed, carrying two light and two heavy machine guns. Flight tests proved that the Ki 44 climbed faster and higher than any Japanese fighter extant. In 1942 limited numbers arrived at the front as the Shoki (Demon Queller), but they were coolly received by pilots accustomed to pristine dogfighters. The Shoki did, in fact, dis­play some dangerous characteristics, and extreme
maneuvers such as snap rolls and spins were forbid­den. After a while, pilots came to appreciate the speed and ruggedness of the Shoki and developed a healthy respect for the plane. The same might be said for the Allies, who christened it the Tojo after Japan’s prime minister. Interestingly, this was the only Japanese warplane identified by a non-Western code name.

The Ki 44 saw limited deployment in China and was latter based at Palembang in Sumatra for de­fense of valuable oil installations there. As newer Al­lied fighters were encountered, subsequent versions of the Tojo introduced stronger engines and greater armament. It was not until 1944, when fleets of U. S. B-29s began plastering Japanese cities, that the Tojo came into its own. Climbing quickly, they proved one of few Japanese fighters capable of engaging the giant bombers at high altitude. The Ki 44 enjoyed some success in this mode, but by 1944 production was halted in favor of the all-around better Ki 84 Hayate. A total of 1,233 were built.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 67 feet; length, 54 feet, 1 inch; height, 13 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 14,396 pounds; gross, 25,133 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,500-horsepower Nakajima Ha-109 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 306 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,510 feet; range, 1,243 miles

Armament: 5 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


he Ki 49 was intended as a much-needed re­placement for the aging Ki 21 Sally. However, it conferred few advantages in terms of perform­ance, and most crews actually preferred the older machine.

Deployment of the Mitsubishi Ki 21 bomber had no sooner begun in 1938 than the Japanese army began contemplating its successor. That year the army staff drafted specifications for a new air­craft featuring crew armor, self-sealing tanks, and the first-ever tail turret mounted in an army bomber. Nakajima, which had earlier lost out to Mitsubishi and ended up producing Ki 21s under license, gained firsthand knowledge about their competitor’s prod­uct and sought to improve upon it. The prototype Ki 49 first flew in August 1939 as an all-metal, mid­wing aircraft with retractable undercarriage. Its inner wing possessed a wider chord than the outer sections to accommodate self-sealing fuel tanks. The trailing edge also mounted full-length Fowler flaps to enhance takeoff and climbing characteris­tics. The craft completed test flights, and pilots
praised its handling qualities but otherwise deemed it underpowered. Nonetheless, production was au­thorized in 1941, and the first Ki 49 units were de­ployed in China. Known officially as the Donryu (Storm Dragon), it performed well enough against weak Chinese resistance but represented only mar­ginal improvement over the earlier Ki 21. It eventu­ally received the Allied code name Helen.

The Ki 49 saw extensive service along the Ja­panese Empire’s southern fringes. It debuted during the February 1942 attack on Port Darwin, Australia, and was frequently encountered over New Guinea. But despite armor and heavy armament, the Helen proved vulnerable to fighters and lost heavily. Naka­jima responded by fitting subsequent versions with bigger engines and more guns, but the type re­mained too underpowered to be effective. After the

U. S. invasion of the Philippines in 1944, where Ki 49s were sacrificed in droves, they were finally withdrawn from frontline service. Most spent the rest of their days as antisubmarine craft, transports, or kamikazes. Only 819 were built.

. Myasishchev M 4 Molot

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 10 inches; length, 32 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,864; gross, 8,576 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,900-horsepower Nakajima Ha-45 radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 392 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,450; range, 1,347 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 1,100 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1944-1945


he Ki 84 was the best Japanese army fighter of World War II to reach large-scale production. Fast, well-armed, and well-protected, it could easily outfly the formidable P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts.

By 1942 the attrition of experienced Japanese pi­lots forced the High Command to reconsider its phi­losophy of fighter design. By default, they concluded that maneuverability had lost ground to high perform­ance, firepower, and pilot survivability. Accordingly, specifications were issued for a new machine to re­place the aging Ki 43s in service. Nakajima subse­quently fielded the prototype Ki 84 that flew in April

1943. This was a handsome, low-wing fighter with an extremely advanced power plant, the Nakajima Ha-45 radial. To the surprise of many, the new design pos­sessed impressive qualities of speed and climb with­out sacrificing the cherished maneuverability of ear­lier machines. More important, it was also well-armed for a Japanese fighter, mounting two cannons and two heavy machine guns. The decision was made to pur­
sue production immediately, and the Ki 84 entered ser­vice as the Hayate (Gale) during the autumn of 1944. Allies gave it the code name Frank.

The first production batches of Ki 84s gave the 14th Air Force in China an extremely hard time, demonstrating marginal superiority over such stal­warts as the P-51 and P-47. As more became avail­able, they fleshed out fighter units in the Philippines, where a major invasion was anticipated. In combat the Frank was an outstanding fighter plane, strong enough to be fitted with bombs for ground-attack purposes. However, its Achilles’ heel was the Ha-45 direct-injection engine, which was complex, re­quired constant maintenance, and was frequently unreliable. Japan was also experiencing an alarming decline in quality control, for vital parts such as landing gear began inexplicably snapping off during touchdown. The Frank nonetheless gave a good ac­count of itself until war’s end and confirmed Japan’s ability to design first-rate warplanes. Production of these outstanding craft came to 3,514 machines.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Patrol-Bomber; Antisubmarine

Dimensions: wingspan, 62 feet, 4 inches; length, 4 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 5,456 pounds; gross, 9,039 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 680-horsepower M-17B air-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 124 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,435 feet; range, 404 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; up to 1,102 pounds of bombs or depth charges

Service dates: 1935-1965


he simple, rugged MBR 2 was built in large quan­tities and enjoyed a 30-year service life. At one time or another circumstances forced it to perform reconnaissance, bombing, and antisubmarine work.

In 1932 the talented designer Georgi M. Beriev submitted plans for his first flying boat, a machine intended for short-range maritime reconnaissance. Designated the MBR 2, it was a shoulder-wing mono­plane with a pusher-mounted engine affixed by a pair of “N” struts. It had a wooden, two-step hull and a wing constructed of metal tubing covered by fab­ric. A crew of four was comfortably carried in open cockpits and gunnery stations, but subsequent ver­sions introduced fully enclosed canopies and manu­ally operated turrets. The new craft was simple and efficient from the onset, so in 1935 it entered service with Soviet naval units in the Black Sea and else­where. In service the MBR 2 established its de­signer’s reputation for creating simple, robust air­craft that worked well on water and were easily maintained. Production ended in 1941 after a run of
1,300 machines. The MBR 2 was also popular with civilians, and in 1937 noted aviatrix Paulina Os – ipenka established several women’s world records flying one of them.

The MBR 2 was marginally obsolete by 1939, but it served in considerable numbers throughout the war with Finland. When the Great Patriotic War commenced in June 1941, the MBR 2s were neces­sarily deployed everywhere that the Soviet navy fought and performed yeoman’s work. In addition to maritime reconnaissance, the exigencies of combat required it to undertake night bombing and, in the absence of other machines, day bombing as well. Despite fierce German resistance, many MBR 2 sim­ply absorbed great amounts of damage and returned home for more missions. In addition, the type’s slow speed and long loitering ability made it an ideal anti­submarine platform. After the war, many MBR 2s found their way into fishery and air/sea rescue work. They remained so employed until being replaced by the newer Be 12 in the mid-1960s.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 162 feet; length, 99 feet, 5 inches; height, 38 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 79,234 pounds; gross, 135,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 2,850-horsepower Bristol Centaurus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 238 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,000 feet; range, 1,300 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1956-1967


ne of the bulkiest aircraft ever conceived, the Beverly was a dependable heavy-lifter that served capably for a decade. It had uncanny abilities to take off and land on very short strips, even when fully loaded.

In the immediate postwar era, the British Air Ministry issued Specification C.3/46 to secure a new and advanced tactical transport for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Such a plane had to be capable of car­rying very large loads over medium distances. It so happened that the General Aircraft Corporation had conducted several studies of large freighter air­planes and had a design in hand. When a contract was authorized, the construction commenced and continued apace until 1949, when the company merged with Blackburn. The finished product finally flew as the GAL 60 Universal in June 1950. This was an odd bird, to say the least. The new plane centered around a large and capacious fuselage that was very deep if somewhat narrow. To this was connected a large tailboom sporting twin rudders, which could also hold cargo or troops. The shoulder-mounted
wing also had four Bristol Hercules radial engines, while a pair of long, fixed landing gear were at­tached. Test flights revealed the craft lifted prodi­gious quantities of freight using very short runways and could touch down in even shorter spaces. With further modifications a newer craft, christened the Beverly, entered production in 1955. These became operational the following year; Blackburn ultimately constructed 47 machines.

In service the Beverly was the largest airplane operated by the RAF to that time. It could accom­modate several light vehicles or up to 94 troops. It was also the first such craft equipped with clamshell rear doors for air-dropping supplies. In 1959 a Beverly tossed out a military load in excess of 40,000 pounds, then a national record. The big craft performed particularly useful service ferrying helicopters to the troubled island of Cyprus. They served RAF Transport Command well for a decade with little ceremony before finally being replaced in 1967 by the even more capable Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet; length, 63 feet, 5 inches; height, 16 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 30,000 pounds; gross, 62,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 11,030-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 691 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 600 miles

Armament: up to 16,000 pounds of bombs or missiles

Service dates: 1962-1992


he massive Buccaneer was the world’s first air­craft employed for high-speed low-altitude bombing. Nimble despite great bulk, Buccaneers could deliver a wide range of ordnance beneath enemy radar nets with remarkable accuracy.

In 1952 the Royal Navy issued Specification NA.39 calling for the creation of a two-seat, low-level strike aircraft capable of carrier operations. Such a machine would perform at high subsonic speed—a difficult proposition due to atmospheric density—yet possess considerable range. In 1955 Blackburn re­sponded with a design that first flew in 1958. The Buccaneer was a large, portly aircraft with swept, midmounted wings and a high “T” tail. To facilitate high speed at low levels it utilized a unique boundary layer control system whereby hot gas was bled from the engines and ejected at certain points along the leading edges. This controlled the amount of air pass­ing over the control surfaces and ensured a smooth ride. Other innovations included a rotary bomb bay, which turned inside the fuselage and thus did not
project doors into the slipstream. Finally, the fuselage incorporated area ruling, being pinched in toward the rear, again to ensure high speed. Flight trials were im­pressive, and the Buccaneer moved into production. The first S.1 models reached the Royal Navy carriers by 1961, and in service they proved fine bombing plat­forms, if somewhat underpowered. The S.2 versions, fitted with Rolls-Royce Spey engines with 30 percent more thrust and better fuel economy, arrived in 1964. Some 100 Buccaneers of both versions were built.

By 1969 British defense cuts had all but gutted the Fleet Air Arm of carrier aircraft, and surviving Buccaneers were passed along to the Royal Air Force (RAF). At first, the RAF looked askance at the brutish machines because they lacked supersonic capability, but the Buccaneers, once outfitted with better electronics, performed as formidable strike aircraft. These were slowly replaced by the newer Panavia Tornadoes beginning in 1984, but a handful flew missions during the 1991 Gulf War. They were superb interim machines.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet; length, 35 feet, 3 inches; height, 12 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 4,039 pounds; gross, 8,050 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 800-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 150 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,000 feet; range, 625 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1 x 1,550-pound torpedo Service dates: 1935-1944


he Shark was the last in a long line of Blackburn torpedo planes and could operate as either a land plane or on floats. It had a relatively short ser­vice life, but lingered in reserve functions for many years.

In 1933 the Fleet Air Arm needed a new two – or three-seat torpedo-bomber to update its aging fleet of Blackburn Darts, Ripons, and Baffins. Blackburn responded with a prototype originally begun as a private venture, the M.1/30A, which first flew on February 24, 1933. It was a biplane with unequal wings, the top of which possessed a broad chord and a cut-out section over the pilot’s canopy. The two wings were metal-framed, fabric-covered, and fastened by distinctive “N”-type struts. Interestingly, both spans possessed ailerons that could be lowered as flaps. Finally, the fuselage was round in cross-sec­tion, being an all-metal, semimonocoque structure with watertight compartments. Tests on board the carrier HMS Courageous proved satisfactory, and in 1934 16 aircraft were acquired as the Shark I. These
served with No. 820 Squadron, replacing their com­plement of Fairey Seals.

In 1935 a newer version, the Shark II, was de­veloped that featured a new Armstrong-Whitworth VI Tiger radial engine developing 750-horsepower. The Royal Navy purchased 123 of this version for use in No. 810 and No. 821 Squadrons, supplanting their inventory of Fairey Seals and Blackburn Baffins. The Shark II was an efficient plane, but in 1938 it was replaced in turn by the newer Fairey Swordfish and assigned to training functions.

A final variant, the Shark III, emerged in 1937. This differed from the previous models in having a glazed sliding canopy and a three-blade wooden pro­peller. It was also powered by an 800-horsepower Bris­tol Pegasus radial engine. The navy acquired 95 Shark IIIs that year, and they served briefly before assuming training and target-towing duties. Several Shark IIIs still operated in the opening days of World War II, and a handful at Trinidad flew regular training missions until 1944. Production reached 238 machines.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 2 inches; length, 35 feet, 7 inches; height, 12 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 5,490 pounds; gross, 8,228 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 890-horsepower Bristol Perseus XII radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 225 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,200 feet; range, 760 miles

Armament: 5 x.303-inch machine guns; 500 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1942


he Skua is best remembered as the Fleet Air Arm’s first carrier-based monoplane. Hopelessly outdated by World War II, it performed a few memo­rable tasks before being retired.

In 1934 the British Air Ministry, seeking a new aircraft to replace its Hawker Ospreys and Nim – rods, issued Specification O.27/34, which called for an all-metal monoplane capable of being deck-han­dled on a carrier and flown as either a fighter or a dive-bomber. The prototype Blackburn Skua first flew in 1937 as a low-wing monoplane, the first Fleet Air Arm machine to possess a radial engine, re­tractable landing gear, and a variable-pitch pro­peller. The design was underpowered but pleasant to fly, so in 1938 it entered service aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal. The advent of World War II clearly demonstrated the shortcomings of the Skua as a fighter, as it was too slow and underarmed to be ef­fective. On September 25, 1939, a Skua managed— barely—to shoot down a lumbering Do 18 seaplane,
the first official kill by Fleet Air Arm aircraft. How­ever, Skuas were better employed as dive-bombers, and they performed heroic work in the early cam­paigns around Norway. On April 10, 1940, 16 Skuas took off from Hatson in the Orkneys and flew di­rectly to the Bergen Fjord. There they surprised and sank the German heavy cruiser Konigsberg at dawn and returned home with the loss of only one plane. Skuas remained in frontline service until 1941, when they were phased out by Fairey Fulmars and Hawker Sea Hurricanes. Many spent the rest of the war performing target-tug and training duties. A total of 192 were built.

In 1938 an attempt was made to convert the Skua into an effective turret-armed fighter, much in the manner of Bolton-Paul’s Defiant. The resulting design was called the Roc, but it proved even slower and more incapable than its predecessor. Blackburn assembled 136 of these machines, but they saw no combat and very little active service.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 25 feet, 7 inches; length, 26 feet, 3 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 769 pounds; gross, 1,378 pounds Power plant: 1 x 70-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 66 miles per hour; ceiling, 3,000 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: up to 55 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1910-1915


he fragile-looking Bleriot XI crossed the English Channel to tally one of history’s most significant aviation firsts. In the early days of World War I, it was also operated by numerous French, British, and Italian squadrons.

Prior to 1908, Louis Bleriot had been an aviator of little consequence, that is, until he abandoned bi­plane pusher-type craft in favor of monoplane tractor designs. His greatest effort, the Bleriot XI, premiered at Paris in December 1908. This revolutionary craft consisted of steel tubing, wooden struts, a fabric – covered fuselage, and paper-covered wings. It pos­sessed a conventional rudder but was assisted in turns by wing-warping, whereby the wing’s trailing edges were bent during flight by wires. The craft landed on two bicycle tires suspended on struts and was initially powered by a coughing, 25-horsepower REP engine. The Bleriot XI seemed to epitomize the fragility of early flight, but in fact it was a well-con­ceived aircraft with high performance for its day. Bleriot underscored this fact on July 25, 1909, when he dramatically piloted his craft across the English

Channel—the first time such a feat had been accom­plished. This act gained him international celebrity and dramatically signified that technology had ended England’s isolation from continental Europe.

The French military acquired its first Bleriot XI in 1910 and went on to develop specialized versions with more powerful engines for reconnaissance and artillery-spotting. The craft was also acquired in large numbers by Italy, and on October 23, 1911, Cap­tain Carlo Piazza conducted history’s first reconnais­sance mission by overflying Turkish positions in Libya. Following the onset of World War I in August 1914, the Bleriot was among the most numerous air­craft in a host of French, Italian, and British recon­naissance squadrons. In service it was slow and un­armed save for crew-carried rifles, but Bleriots could also carry small, hand-thrown bombs for harassment purposes. These pioneering craft rendered useful service well into 1915 before being withdrawn to serve as trainers. Prior to their removal, the Bleriots made history by demonstrating the utility of military aviation. About 800 were constructed.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 12 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,765 pounds; gross, 3,638 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 690-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Xbrs water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 201 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,450 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1937-1939


he handsome S 510 took six and a half years to develop before becoming the last biplane fighter to serve the French Armee de l’Air. Although su­perbly acrobatic, it was too outdated to see action in World War II.

In 1930 the French government announced competition for a new fighter. Three years later Andre Herbemont responded with the last biplane product to bear the old SPAD designation. His new craft was a single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The wings were equally long, but the upper was swept sharply back, and both were joined by single, faired “I” struts. Ailerons were present on the lower wing only. In contrast to the previous round-bodied fighters, the new design possessed an oval cross-sec­tion fuselage with the rear section forming a duralu­min monocoque. The airplane frame was built en­tirely of metal, was fabric-covered, and sported an open cockpit. In a final touch, spatted wheel fairings gave it a sleek, modern look. The Bleriot-SPAD S 510 was certainly a handsome craft with outstanding ma­
neuverability and climb. However, in level flight it was slower than the Dewoitine D 510 all-metal monoplane, to which it lost the competition. The government then suggested that test models be lengthened to improve longitudinal stability. When Herbemont complied, 60 aircraft were ordered in

1936— six years after the design had been originated.

In service the S 510 proved delightful to fly, as were all SPAD fighters. However, even lengthened it was prone to spin, and at steep angles the engine could stall due to fuel starvation. Moreover, several accidents occurred as a result of undercarriage breakage. These deficiencies ensured that the S 510 enjoyed only brief service life, and by 1937 most had been transferred to regional (reserve) squadrons. Reputedly, a handful were clandestinely supplied to Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. S 510s were still available in quantity when World War II commenced in September 1939, but none saw combat. If employed at all, the last French biplane fighter performed its final duties as a trainer.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 7 inches; length, 29 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 4,453 pounds; gross, 5,908 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N-25 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 320 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 373 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.5mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1939-1942


he MB 152, having suffered a prolonged, troubled gestation, only entered service on the eve of World War II. It nonetheless formed a major part of French fighter strength and gave a good account of itself.

In 1934 the French Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for a new monoplane fighter. Five compa­nies responded and one, Marcel Bloch Avions, fielded the MB 150. This was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage. How­ever, the prototype was extremely underpowered, and on its first test hop it failed to leave the ground. A complete redesign became necessary, and it was not until May 4, 1937, that a test flight successfully concluded. Further modifications were required to make the craft suitable for mass production, and in 1939 the first MB 151 was accepted into service by the Armee de l’Air. Continued testing revealed their unsatisfactory nature as fighters, and the first 140 machines were used as trainers. Fortunately for Bloch a new version, the MB 152, was already under development. This was similar to the earlier version
but enjoyed revised wings and a stronger GR 14N ra­dial engine. In flight the MB 152 displayed good ma­neuverability, was a stable gun platform, and could outdive other fighters with ease. More political wrangling followed, but the government finally as­sented to procuring an additional 482 aircraft.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, the French possessed 140 MB 151s and 383 MB 152s, but the majority had been delivered with­out gun sights or propellers. Much valuable time was lost making them combat-worthy, and further efforts were expended correcting a tendency toward overheating. When Germany finally invaded France on May 10, 1940, no less than seven groupes de chasse (fighter groups) were equipped with MB 152s. Of these, only 80 were truly operational, but all were committed to combat against the mighty Luftwaffe. By the time fighting ceased, 270 of these attractive machines had been lost in action, but they accounted for 170 German aircraft. A total of 600 machines had been built.

. Beriev MBR 2

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 58 feet, 8 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 12,346 pounds; gross, 15,784 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,100-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N-48/49 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 329 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,090 feet; range, 1,025 miles

Armament: 7 x 7.5mm machine guns; up to 882 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1939-1953


he elegant Bloch MB 174 was France’s best re­connaissance aircraft of World War II. Fast enough to escape marauding Luftwaffe fighters, they had little opportunity to distinguish themselves.

In 1936 Bloch initiated work on a modern, two – or three-seat reconnaissance bomber for the French Armee de l’Air. The prototype first flew in February 1938 as an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing mono­plane. The craft was fitted with twin rudders, as well as retractable landing gear that buried itself in the engine nacelles. This first model possessed an elon­gated cupola under the fuselage to house a camera or an additional gun position, but this feature was deleted on subsequent models. By January 1939, the aircraft had evolved into the Bloch MB 174, with major modifications. It featured a lengthy green­house canopy set farther back along the fuselage than the prototypes. It also possessed an extensively glazed nose and a small bomb bay. Test flights re­vealed the craft to exhibit excellent performance at all altitudes, so in 1939 it entered production. Persis­
tent problems with overheating resulted in the adop­tion of smaller propeller spinners on most ma­chines. A small number of bomber versions, the MB 175, had also been constructed. Around 80 ma­chines were built in all.

Bloch MB 174s equipped three groupes de re­connaissance (reconnaissance groups) by the spring of 1940, shortly before the German invasion. At that time they were required to conduct dangerous mis­sions deep into enemy territory, which were accom­plished with little loss. With the imminent collapse of France, several MB 174s were flown to North Africa to escape, but most of these excellent craft were de­stroyed to prevent capture. The surviving machines were subsequently employed by Vichy air units in the defense of Tunisia. The Germans also kept the type in production, taking on 56 machines as trainers. During the immediate postwar period, an additional 80 MB 174Ts were constructed as torpedo-bombers for the French navy. These flew capably until being replaced in 1953 by more modern designs.

. О de Havilland Canada DHC1 Chipmunk

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 4 inches; length, 25 feet, 5 inches; height, 7 feet Weights: empty, 1,425 pounds; gross, 2,014 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 145-horsepower de Havilland Gypsy air-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,800 feet; range, 280 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1946-1996


he famous Chipmunk was de Havilland Canada’s first product and a very successful one at that. Built in large numbers, it trained pilots in Canada, England, and countries across the world.

Even before World War II had concluded, de Havilland and its Canadian subsidiary began negoti­ating for a new postwar trainer. Such a craft would be invariably compared against the immortal Tiger Moth, one of the greatest training machines of all time. If successful, the parent company even offered help in marketing it abroad. By 1946 a design team headed by W. J. Jakimiuk created a simple, robust machine that they dubbed the Chipmunk. It was a low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal, save for the control surfaces, which were fabric-cov­ered. Under a braced canopy sat pupil and instruc­tor in tandem, and the craft also employed fixed landing gear. Intended as a primary trainer, the first DHC 1 Chipmunks accepted into Canadian service were not stressed and, consequently, not entirely ac­robatic. They were, however, gentle, responsive air­planes and quite popular in their intended role. By
1951 de Havilland Canada manufactured 218 Chip­munks. Many were subsequently fitted with a blown bubble canopy for better all-around vision.

In 1951 several DHC 1s were dispatched to En­gland for evaluation as a standard Royal Air Force trainer. Flight tests were successful, but the RAF in­sisted on certain modifications to bring the machine up to their more rigorous standards. These included a variable-pitch propeller, all-around stressing, land­ing lights, antispin stakes, and landing gear that were moved forward. This done, the parent de Havilland company produced an additional 740 Chipmunks for the RAF. These machines fleshed out virtually every training squadron in the service for several years. Others were taken to Germany, stripped of their rear seat, and employed as light communications aircraft. A handful were also employed in Cyprus for internal security duties during difficulties there in 1958. Thereafter, several score found markets abroad. The venerable DHC 1s remained in declining numbers until 1996, when all were officially discharged. Sev­eral hundred still fly today in private hands.

. О Aichi D3A Japan

Type: Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 2 inches; length, 33 feet, 7 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 5,310 pounds; gross, 5,772 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 44 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,050 feet; range, 970 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; 816 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1945


espite its obsolete appearance, the Val was re­sponsible for sinking more Allied warships than any other Axis aircraft during World War II. It was subsequently employed in great numbers as a sui­cide plane (the dreaded kamikazes).

In 1936 the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to replace its aging Aichi D1A biplane dive – bombers with a more modern craft. A competition was held among several firms, and Aichi entered the winning design. It was the first all-metal mono­plane bomber employed by the Japanese navy and owed much to the earlier Heinkel He 70. The D3A was a radial-engine low-wing monoplane with spat­ted fix undercarriage. Like the He 70, the large wing was elliptically shaped and canted slightly up­ward past the midsection. Test flights indicated the need for enhanced stability, so production models were fitted with a lengthy dorsal fin. D3As became operational in 1938 and were popular with crews. They were robust, highly maneuverable, and could dogfight once bombs were dropped. After Decem­
ber 1941, D3As formed the front ranks of Japan’s elite carrier-based aviation squadrons.

The D3A, or Val, as it was code-named, quickly emerged as the terror of Allied shipping. Commenc­ing with the attack on Pearl Harbor, they accompa­nied the first wave, inflicting heavy damage on nu­merous U. S. battleships. D3As then ventured to the Indian Ocean, sinking the British carrier HMS Her­mes and cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall. They proved uncannily accurate: No less than 82 percent of bombs dropped by Vals struck their intended victims! Vals remained a potent force through the first half of 1942 before sustaining heavy losses at the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. Thereafter, Japanese naval aviation could not replace their highly trained air­crews, and efficiency waned. By 1943 an improved version, the D3A2, arrived, featuring a cleaner cowl and a spinner, but Vals suffered greatly at the hands of improved Allied fighters. Those not hacked down in combat spent their last days as kamikazes. A total of 1,495 of these impressive bombers were produced.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 10 inches; length, 53 feet, 4 inches; height, 14 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 14,317 pounds; gross, 26,455 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 7,165-pound thrust Shenyang WP6 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 740 miles per hour; ceiling, 52,000 feet; range, 404 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons; up to 4,410 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1965-


he Q 5 is built and marketed as a relatively sim­ple and low-cost alternative to high-priced West­ern strike aircraft. Although based on outdated tech­nology, it is capable and available in large numbers.

The history of the Nanchang Q 5 dates back to 1958, when the People’s Republic of China began mass-producing copies of the Russian MiG 19 fighter. At that time, the People’s Liberation Air Force sought a dedicated ground-attack craft with better perform­ance than existing MiGs. The program was inter­rupted in 1961 by the Cultural Revolution and did not recommence until 1965. That June a prototype Q 5 flew for the first time as a highly modified airframe with overtones of the earlier craft. The biggest change was the nose section, which was highly pointed and replaced the frontal intake of the MiG 19 with ones on either side of the fuselage. Other changes included broader wings and an internal bomb bay. The tail control surfaces were apparently retained intact. Around 1970 the Q 5 entered produc­
tion and received the NATO designation FANTAN. Roughly 1,000 have been built and are deployed in three main versions. The variant associated with the People’s Liberation Navy carries additional radar and torpedoes. It is also nuclear-capable.

The Q 5 continues to be regarded as a major tactical asset within the Chinese air force judging from the sheer number of machines fielded. The FANTAN is apparently a rugged, capable ground-at­tack aircraft that can be fitted with a variety of inter­nal and external ordnance, including ground-to-air missiles and bomb clusters. It also mounts a pair of 23mm cannons for defensive purposes. Such cheap, effective machines have decided appeal for poorer Third World countries seeking to enhance their mili­tary capabilities. For this reason, Pakistan, North Korea, and Bangladesh all have imported small quantities of Q 5s. The newest version, the Q 5I, has deleted the bomb bay in favor of additional fuel and fuselage hardpoints.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet, 9 inches; length, 19 feet; height, 8 feet Weights: empty, 728 pounds; gross, 1,058 pounds Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 97 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,090 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun Service dates: 1915-1916


he Nieuport 11 was one of the most famous air­craft of World War I. Light and maneuverable, it helped end the “Fokker scourge” and restore Allied control of the air.

In response to the 1914 Gordon Bennett Air Race, Gustave Delage of Nieuport undertook design of a new and relatively small machine. This craft, which he christened the Bebe (Baby) on account of its size, was built in only four months. It featured conventional wood-and-fabric construction with highly staggered, swept-back wings. The lower wing was slightly shorter than the top, possessed only half the surface area, and was secured by distinctive vee struts. The racer was fast and demonstrated a good rate of climb with superlative flying qualities. Because World War I canceled the air race, the Avia­tion Militaire (French air service) decided to adopt the airplane as the Nieuport 11 scout. For combat purposes it sported a single Lewis machine gun on the top wing that fired above the propeller arc.

The first Nieuport 11s arrived at the front in the summer of 1915—none too soon for the hard-
pressed Allies. For six months previously the Fokker E III monoplanes had monopolized air combat over the Western Front, inflicting heavy losses. This latest French fighter could literally fly rings around its opponent and, in concert with the de Havilland DH 2 pusher, recaptured air su­premacy for the Allies. The Italians were also sin­gularly impressed by the design, and they obtained rights to manufacture it under license. By 1917 Nieuport 11s formed the mainstay of Italian fighter strength and were also widely exported to Belgium and Russia.

In 1916 Nieuport fitted the Bebe fuselage with a more powerful engine and additional armament. The ensuing Model 16 proved as popular as its pred­ecessor, launching the careers of many French aces, including Georges Guynemer and Charles Nungesser. This model was also unique in being fit­ted with small Le Prieur rockets for shooting down observation balloons. More than 600 Nieuport 16s were constructed, and they remained actively em­ployed until 1917.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 11 inches; length, 18 feet, 10 inches; height, 7 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 705 pounds; gross, 1,179 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Le Rhone rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,388 feet; range, 186 miles Armament: 1 x 7.7mm machine gun Service dates: 1916-1917


he Nieuport 17 was one of the most famous war­planes in aviation history. Its dogfighting abili­ties were legendary, and German aircraft designers felt obliged to incorporate many of its technical as­pects into their own craft.

In 1916 Gustave Delage sought to improve upon his existing Nieuport 16 to counteract a ten­dency toward nose-heaviness and structural failures in the lower wing. The result was a strengthened, lengthened design: the classic Nieuport 17. It fea­tured additional wing area, cleaned-up lines, and a reinforced lower wing. A fully synchronized Vickers machine gun, installed in front of the pilot’s posi­tion, also replaced the wing-mounted Lewis weapon. Consequently, the new craft displayed all the agility of older models with none of their vices.

The Nieuport 17 appeared at the front in the summer of 1916, just as the struggle against the Fokker E III monoplanes was climaxing. As with earlier models, it had little difficulty dispatching nu­merous German adversaries. It also was one of the few Allied aircraft that could hold its own against
the new-model Albatros and Halberstadt D I fighters appearing that fall. Being propelled by a rotary en­gine, which exerted great torque forces while spin­ning inside the cowling, Nieuports easily outturned their faster opponents. The Italians were impressed by this compact dervish and obtained a license to manufacture it on their own. The type was also ex­ported abroad to Belgium and Russia with similar results. Moreover, it formed the strength of the American volunteer squadron, the famous Lafayette Escadrille.

Few aircraft are so closely associated with a stable of aces as this legendary Nieuport design. It assisted the careers of such flying legends as Georges Guynemer, Rene Fonck, and Jean Navarre in France, Italy’s Francesco Baracca, Edward Man – nock of Great Britain, and William “Billy” Bishop of Canada. The great British ace Albert Ball was al­legedly so attached to his Nieuport that he refused to trade it when ordered to do so! This superlative fighter plane remained in frontline service until 1917 before being superceded by the SPAD VII.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 8 inches; length, 21 feet; height, 8 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 1,047 pounds; gross, 1,625 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 122 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 155 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-caliber machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he Nieuport 28 was among the most elegant fighters of World War I but inferior to earlier models. It nonetheless gained renown as the first combat aircraft piloted by newly-arrived Americans.

The appearance of new German fighters in the summer of 1917 prompted Gustave Delage to radi­cally overhaul the design philosophy of his aging Nieuport scouts. A new craft, designated the Nieu – port 28, dispensed with the familiar sesquiplane ap­proach (with one wing longer than the other) and adopted wings of equal length. Moreover, in con­trast to the square-tipped wings anchored by vee struts of earlier versions, the new craft sported rounded tips and two-bay, conventional strutting. The graceful fuselage was also circular in cross-sec­tion, with a highly streamlined metal cowling. The resulting craft exhibited delightfully stylish lines and proved highly maneuverable with a good rate of climb. Unfortunately, it was also structurally weak, as the leading edge tended to break up during dives. This could lead to the entire upper wing collaps­ing—with fatal results. In light of additional prob­
lems with the 160-horsepower Gnome Monosou – pape rotary engine, the Aviation Militaire (French air service) decided to purchase the more rugged SPAD VII instead.

The Nieuport 28 might have lapsed into obscu­rity save for developments overseas. In 1917 the United States declared war against Germany and began dispatching the American Expeditionary Force to France. It arrived in the summer and fall of that year wholly destitute of aircraft and eager to purchase modern designs. Because the Nieuport 28 was the only available fighter at the time, 297 of these rejected machines outfitted the 27th, 94th, 95th, and 147th Aero Squadrons in the spring of 1918. Both Douglas Campbell, the first American ace, and Eddie Rickenbacker, the highest-scoring pilot, cut their teeth in these fragile fighters. Other noted fliers such as Raoul Lufbery and Quinten Roo­sevelt were killed flying them. After a service life of several months, the unpopular Nieuports were fi­nally replaced by SPAD XIIIs. A handful lingered on as racing craft well into the 1920s.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 10 inches; length, 21 feet, 3 inches; height, 8 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 1,675 pounds; gross, 2,535 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 300-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 8Fb water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 146 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 360 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1922-1933


oo late to serve in World War I, the Ni-D 29 was one of the best fighters of the 1920s. It served many years in the air forces of France, Italy, Bel­gium, and Japan.

In 1918 Gustave Delage undertook design of a fighter to replace his less-than-successful Nieuport 28. In doing so he completely forsook the long-stand­ing design norms of the Nieuport company. His new Ni-D 29 differed greatly from previous machines by mounting an in-line, not rotary, engine. It also dis­pensed with traditional vee struts associated with that company. The new craft was a two-bay biplane of conventional wood-and-canvas design. The wings were of equal length, slightly staggered, and both possessed ailerons. The fuselage was of streamlined monocoque construction with a close-fitting metal cowl over the engine. This necessitated twin radia­tors to be suspended below the engine and between the landing struts. Delage’s latest creation first flew in June 1918, exhibiting high speed and great maneu­verability. The second prototype even established a
world’s altitude record of 29,931 feet in 1919. Having missed World War I, the Ni-D 29 entered production in 1921, with 250 units acquired by fighter squadrons. The craft proved immediately successful, and soon it was redesigned with longer wings and no upper ailerons. This version, the Ni-D 29 C.1, remained in frontline service until 1928.

The Ni-D 29 subsequently became one of the most important and numerous fighter aircraft of the postwar period. It was widely exported abroad, serving with the air forces of Belgium, Sweden, Ar­gentina, and Spain; it was also built under license by Italy and Japan. The Japanese firm Nakajima sup­plied army air force units with no less than 608 ma­chines (designated Ko 4), which remained in service until 1933. These aircraft saw extensive use during the Manchurian campaign, while French and Span­ish Nieuports fought against rebels throughout North Africa. In 1927 a mock dogfight of Ni-D 29s was even staged over Paris between a French pilot and Charles Lindbergh!

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Light Bomber; Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan (swept) 28 feet; length, 61 feet, 3 inches; height, 19 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 31,970 pounds; gross, 61,700 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 8,650-pound thrust Turbo-Union RB.199-34R Mk 104 turbofans Performance: maximum speed, 921 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,000 feet; range, 863 miles Armament: 2 x 27mm cannons; up to 19,841 pounds of rockets, bombs, or gunpods Service dates: 1980-


he Tornado is possibly the most flexible multi­mission aircraft in history. Designed as a strike aircraft, it can also perform air-defense, antiship­ping, and reconnaissance missions with ease.

In the late 1960s Germany, Italy, and Great Britain joined hands to design a basic ground-attack aircraft that would be built and deployed by all three nations. The new machine would have to operate from short runways, deliver ordnance with pinpoint accuracy, and operate in any weather conditions. It would also be optimized for high-speed/low-level operations that are highly taxing to both crew and airframe alike. After extensive studies, the proto­type Panavia Tornado IDS was flown in 1974. It was a compact yet highly complicated aircraft, the first European production design to employ variable – geometry wings. The wings are extremely compli­cated and designed around a number of high-lift technologies that enable it to become airborne quickly. The craft is characterized by a somewhat short, pointed nose, a long canopy seating two crew members, and a very tall stabilizer. Internally, the

Tornado utilizes advanced fly-by-wire technology, as well as highly sophisticated navigation/attack radar that combines search, ground-mapping, and terrain­following capabilities. Around 900 Tornados have been built and acquired by the manufacturing na­tions since 1980. Several dozen have also been ex­ported to Saudi Arabia.

In 1976 Great Britain wanted to develop an air – defense version on its own accord to replace the aging inventory of English Electric Lightnings and McDonnell-Douglas Phantoms. It desired a fast, flexi­ble interceptor to protect NATO’s northern and west­ern approaches. The new Tornado ADV rolled out in 1976 and is distinguished from the IDS variant by a lengthened nose. It houses the advanced Foxhound radar system, which can track up to 20 targets simul­taneously at ranges up to 100 miles. The Royal Air Force currently operates 144 Tornado ADVs, and sev­eral have been exported to Saudi Arabia. Both ver­sions saw active duty in the 1991 Gulf War and sus­tained the heaviest losses of any Allied type. They will continue to serve well into the twenty-first century.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Medium Bomber; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 12,952 pounds; gross, 18,726 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,260-horsepower M-105PF liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 360 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,870 feet; range, 721 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 3 x 12.7mm machine guns; 6,614 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he Pe 2 was Russia’s outstanding tactical bomber of World War II and distinguished itself throughout that conflict. Even when fully loaded, it flew so fast that escorting fighters were hard – pressed to keep up.

In 1938 a design bureau under Vladimir Petlyakov responded to Soviet specifications for a high-altitude fighter with the VI 100. It was an all­metal, twin-engine machine with two rudders and streamlined engine nacelles. A crew of three sat in a spacious cockpit toward the front of the fuselage. In designing the VI 100, careful consideration was given to weight and drag reduction, so bulky radia­tors were located along the wings while the fuselage employed the smallest possible cross-section. Flight-testing commenced in 1939 with excellent re­sults, but the government changed the role of the craft to high-level bombing. When this proved im­practical due to inaccuracy, dive-bombing was sub­stituted, and the plane was fitted with dive brakes. Petlyakov’s design proved successful in this mode, and in 1940 it entered service as the Pe 2.

When war with Germany commenced in June 1941, Pe 2s distinguished themselves in hard – pressed attacks and flew faster than pursuing Bf 109E fighters. Pe 2s were so speedy that they fre­quently throttled back to allow Lend-Lease Hawker Hurricane escort fighters to keep up. The Pe 2 was also quite strong and could sustain major damage with few ill effects. Successive modifications and stronger engines improved performance and kept them slightly beyond the reach of the newer Bf 109F/Gs. The biggest modifications occurred in 1943, when the wing profile was modified, oil-cooler intakes were reshaped, and bomb mounts received streamlined fairings. The net result was a 25 percent increase in speed. Features to enhance crew sur­vival were also incorporated, including a novel cold – gas bleeding system to suppress fires in the fuel tanks. No less than 11,400 of these impressive ma­chines were constructed. In concert with the smaller Ilyushin Il 2, they were significant contribu­tors to the final Russian victory.

. Nanchang Q 5

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 128 feet, 3 inches; length, 77 feet, 4 inches; height, 20 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 40,609 pounds; gross, 79,366 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,700-horsepower Shvetsov Ash-82FN radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,525 feet; range, 2,920 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 8,818 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1940-1950


he Pe 8 was an excellent heavy bomber, but the Soviet High Command had little regard for strategic bombing. Despite great range and a good payload, this potentially useful weapon remained a minor player in a very big war.

In 1934 the Soviet government announced specifications for a fast long-range bomber to re­place the Tupolev TB 3s in service. It devolved upon the Tupolev design bureau to create such a craft, al­though under the aegis of Vladimir Petlyakov. The new machine, initially designated TB 7, first flew in December 1936 as an all-metal, midwing monoplane with power turrets and retractable landing gear. A unique feature was the peculiarly thick wings; these allowed crew members to crawl to the inboard en­gine nacelles and man rear-firing machine guns. Ini­tial flights were also impressive, as the TB 7 reached

30,0 feet at speeds exceeding the latest German fighters. They entered production in 1937, but only 79 of these excellent machines were constructed.

This was because the Soviet High Command wanted great numbers of smaller two-engine tactical bombers to operate at low altitude in support of Red Army units. Thus, Soviet long-range bombardment aviation took a permanent backseat to battlefield considerations.

During the initial stages of World War II, the big Pe 8s were actively employed, but seldom in the ca­pacity for which they were designed. On the night of August 11, 1941, several managed to bomb Berlin, and subsequent raids were conducted deep behind German lines. But compared to British and U. S. ef­forts, these were mere pinpricks. However, in May 1942 a Pe 8 made headlines when it flew by stages from Moscow to Washington, D. C., bearing Prime Minister V. M. Molotov. This successful round-trip flight, totaling over 11,000 miles, was a considerable achievement and eloquent testimony to the sound­ness of Petlyakov’s design. After the war several Pe 8s remained employed as engine testbeds until 1950.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 138

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet, 4 inches; length, 65 feet, 1 inch; height, 19 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 24,250 pounds; gross, 34,100 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 600-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205C liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 170 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,700 feet; range, 2,500 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 1 x 13mm machine gun; up to 1,200 pounds of bombs or mines Service dates: 1939-1945


izarre looks notwithstanding, the “Flying Clog” was an important part of the Luftwaffe’s mar­itime reconnaissance program. It would frequently rendezvous with U-boats at sea, bringing them diesel fuel.

In 1933 the Luftfahrtkommissariat (part of the Air Ministry) issued specifications for a long – range reconnaissance flying boat. That year Dr. Richard Vogt of Hamburger Flugzeugbau GmbH, a subsidiary of the famous Blohm und Voss company, conceived an unusually configured design. Initially designated the Ha 138, this was a trimotor craft with dual booms. Moreover, the short fuselage also dou­bled as a watertight hull. The initial flight trials in 1937 revealed it to possess serious aerodynamic and hydrodynamic deficiencies, and so extensive modifi­cations were undertaken to correct them. This en­tailed enlarging the fuselage by 50 percent, lengthen­ing the booms, and redesigning the tail section. The craft was approved for production in 1939 under the revised designation Bv 138. The initial preproduc­tion batch of 25 machines saw service in the Norwe­
gian campaign of 1940, where they were judged un­derpowered and restricted to transport duties.

Continual refinements resulted in appearance of the Bv 138B with stronger engines and greater ar­mament. The open gun parts were fitted with power turrets mounting 20mm cannons. The final produc­tion version, the Bv 138C, arrived in the spring of 1941, featuring additional machine guns and more efficient propellers. By now the Bv 138 possessed fine flying and water characteristics and functioned well in its appointed role. Crews nicknamed it Der Fliegende Holzschuh or “Flying Clog,” because of its distinct shape. In service these fine machines flew from bases along the North Sea and Norway, con­stantly shadowing Allied convoys and providing in­tercept coordinates for U-boats and surface raiders. Given its 18-hour endurance, Bv 138s would also alight next to U-boats far at sea, provisioning them with food and diesel fuel. A final version, the Bv 138MS, was equipped with a large degaussing ring for minesweeping. Production amounted to 279 units.

. Dewoitine D510

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 8 inches; length, 26 feet; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,870; gross, 4,235 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 860-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 250 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,500 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns, 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1935-1940


he Dewoitine 500 series represented the most modern, technically ambitious fighters of their day. They marked a transition phase between open – cockpit biplanes of the 1920s and the more modern aircraft of World War II.

In 1930 the French Aeronautique Militaire is­sued specifications for a new fighter to replace the aging Nieuport-Delage ND 62s then deployed. It fell upon designer Emile Dewoitine to conceive a revo­lutionary new concept that spelled the beginning of the end for biplanes. First flown in 1932, the Dewoi – tine 500 exuded modernity. It was a cantilevered, low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal. The craft was covered by stressed metal sheeting and completely devoid of drag-inducing struts and bracing wires. The only seemingly antiquated fea­ture was fixed landing gear with conspicuous ob­long spats. The in-line engine was closely covered by a pointed cowl, giving the craft an ultramodern, very sleek appearance. In the air, the Dewoitine was faster than its biplane contemporaries, more maneu­verable, and, because of its metal construction,
much stronger. The Armee de l’Air was duly im­pressed by the new machine, and it entered produc­tion in 1933. Within two years a total of 143 were built, including a number of cannon-armed Model 501s.

In August 1934 Dewoitine fielded a more re­fined version, the Model 510. It mounted a larger rudder, an uprated engine, and other aerodynamic refinements. Consequently, it became the first French fighter to exceed 250 miles per hour in level flight. The French air service acquired an additional 120 of these sleek machines, with a further 30 being assigned to the Navy’s Aviation Maritime (naval air arm). These craft also caught the attention of sev­eral governments and were exported abroad, with China acquiring 24 D 510s, Lithuania 14. The Dewoi – tine series still equipped several frontline units as late as 1940, at which time they had been overtaken and rendered obsolete by the newer Messerschmitt Bf 109. Nonetheless, the D 500 series made history by anticipating modern design trends by several years.

. Airspeed Horsa

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet; length, 67 feet; height, 19 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 7,500 pounds; gross, 15,250 pounds Power plant: none

Performance: maximum speed, 127 miles per hour Armament: none Service dates: 1942-1945


he Horsa was the most numerous and widely used British assault glider of World War II. It functioned well at Sicily and Normandy and at one point lifted an entire airborne division across the Rhine.

The striking success of German glider troops in 1940 dismayed British authorities, so that year the Air Ministry issued Specification X.26/40 calling for creation of similar forces. The Airspeed company re­sponded with a prototype called the AS.51 Horsa (named after an ancient Saxon king) in September

1941. This was a high-wing monoplane with tricycle landing gear and provisions for 25 troops. The Horsa was built entirely of wood and was canvas-covered, so it creaked loudly while flying. It was also rela­tively sophisticated, possessing ailerons, split trailing edge flaps, and underwing dive brakes powered by compressed air. The craft was towed aloft by a twin- engine bomber and affixed by a rope fastened to the nose and nosewheel strut. Once airborne, the large wheeled gear were jettisoned; the glider landed on a large retractable skid. It handled well in the air, even
when crammed with men and supplies, and could touch down in relatively small areas. The Horsa en­tered production in 1941 and was initially used for clandestine operations in Norway. It witnessed its large-scale baptism of fire in July 1943, when 30 were successfully launched over Sicily.

In 1941 the Air Ministry decided to develop a specialized freight-carrying version of the Horsa, the AS.58, so that airborne forces could ferry greater supplies to the drop zone. It was similar to the previ­ous version but also featured twin nosewheels and a hinged nose section to ease unloading. The entire rear section could also be jettisoned for that pur­pose. Both models were present during the massive airborne assault over Normandy on June 6, 1944. Horsas carried select detachments of special forces that captured and held several strategic bridges. In March 1945 440 Horsas transported the entire 6th Airborne Division in another large movement across the Rhine River. The U. S. Army also employed sev­eral hundred of these useful craft. A total of 3,655 were built.

Подпись: Great Britain

. Airspeed Horsa

О Airspeed Oxford

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 53 feet, 4 inches; length, 34 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,670 pounds; gross, 8,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 370-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 188 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,500 feet; range, 550 miles Armament: 1 x.303-caliber machine gun Service dates: 1937-1954


he beloved “Ox-box” was one of the unsung he­roes of World War II. Built in huge numbers, it trained thousands of British and Commonwealth air­men in the nuances of flying, gunnery, navigation, and bombardment.

In 1936 the British Air Ministry issued, as part of the Royal Air Force expansion program, Specification

T.23/36 to obtain its first twin-engine training air­plane. This was essential because biplane technology was being superceded by newer monoplanes that were faster and more demanding to fly. It so hap­pened that Airspeed was then marketing a twin-en­gine passenger craft called the Envoy, which could be easily modified for instructional purposes. The Air Ministry agreed and in 1937 submitted an order for 137 aircraft as the Oxford. The new craft was an all­wood, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and attractive lines. The Mk I version was also fitted with a single-gun power turret for gunnery prac­tice. In service the Oxford exhibited easy handling, but it proved tricky for novices to land and required
vigilance. This characteristic was considered more useful than not, for it prepared students for the less – forgiving aircraft they would eventually fly. When World War II commenced in September 1939, the RAF counted 400 Oxford Is in its training inventory.

The Oxford eventually became an essential component of the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme. By 1945 no less than 8,751 “Ox-boxes” had been built, and they were operated in large numbers by Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia. As time passed, this ver­satile trainer’s regimen was expanded to include bombardier, radio-operator, and navigation training. Literally thousands of Allied crewmen gained their wings or specializations while flying the Oxford. Many others were employed for ambulance, liaison, and communications purposes. After the war, many surplus Oxfords transferred over to the civilian sec­tor. The RAF did not relinquish its last “Ox-box” until 1954, and this stately machine stands as one of the most important military trainers in aviation history.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 10 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 1,653 pounds; gross, 2,056 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Mercedes D III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,060 feet; range, 217 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he sleek-looking Pfalz D Ills were among the most streamlined fighters to appear in World War I. Its dogfighting abilities were marginally infe­rior to contemporary Fokkers and Albatroses, but as a balloon-buster it had no peer.

Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke of Bavaria spent the first three years of World War I building Roland D-series fighters and other craft under license. By 1917 chief engineer Rudolph Gehringer advanced plans for a new fighter possessing unmistakably sharklike lines. This new craft, the Pfalz D III, first flew in June of that year. It possessed a plywood-covered mono – coque fuselage with a sharply pointed profile. The wings were slightly staggered with single-bay struts ending in raked, pointed wingtips and mounted as close to the fuselage as possible to afford good all­around view. The lower wing was somewhat shorter than the top and featured cutouts near the roots for enhanced downward vision. The German air service greatly needed a new fighter, so construction of the D III commenced in the summer of 1917.

For all its promise, the Pfalz D III proved something of a bust in combat. Good looks notwith­standing, the plane climbed more slowly and was judged inferior in maneuverability to the contempo­rary Albatros and Fokker triplane fighters then in service. Yet the Pfalz was fast in level flight, pos­sessed pleasant handling characteristics, and could outdive any German fighter extant. This trait, cou­pled with robust construction, made it ideal for the dangerous business of balloon-busting. Observation balloons at this time were heavily defended by ar­tillery batteries below and were surrounded by con­stant fighter patrols. Thus, they were extremely diffi­cult targets to bring down. The great strength of the Pfalz allowed it to dive upon its quarry, absorb con­siderable damage, and return home safely. At length, the D IIIa version was introduced, which featured minor aerodynamic refinements, including rounder wingtips and bigger tail surfaces. Nearly 600 of both models were completed, and at least 350 were in service by war’s end.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 20 feet, 10 inches; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 1,579 pounds; gross, 1,984 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes D Ilia liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,500 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918


he Pfalz D XII was among the very last German fighters to appear in World War I. It was an ex­cellent machine but always operated in the shadow of Fokker’s superb D VII.

The lackluster performance of the earlier D III fighters induced the Pfalz company to design a bet­ter high-performance aircraft as a replacement. Sev­eral intermediary prototypes were built and flown, but it was not until the Aldershof fighter trials of June 1918 that the Pfalz D XII made its unheralded appearance. The new craft showed striking resem­blance to the famous Fokker D VII already in ser­vice, but it was a completely original design. Like the earlier D III, it possessed a plywood monocoque fuselage that tapered rearward to a knife’s edge. A 160-horsepower Mercedes engine was housed in a tight-fitting cowl section, with the top exposed and a radiator in front. The two-bay wings were of unequal length and heavily braced by wiring, while the top wing sported ailerons that flared out past the wingtips. But, given the applause surrounding Fok-
ker’s marvel, skeptics assumed that a few select bribes by the Bavarian government accounted for the Pfalz’s appearance. Nonetheless, several veteran pilots test-flew the craft and praised its many quali­ties. The government then decided to undertake pro­duction of the little-known craft to supplement the Fokkers, then in short supply.

In fact, the D XII proved an excellent design, if marginally inferior to its more famous stablemate. It was fast, immensely strong, and could outdive the D VII with complete safety. However, most pilots had their hearts set upon flying Fokkers, and when the Pfalz machine appeared at aerodromes in Sep­tember 1918 pilots viewed it with disappointment and suspicion. Familiarization flights soon con­vinced them otherwise, and in combat it proved one of few German types able to withstand the Sopwith Camel and the SPAD XIII. The much-neglected fighter fought with distinction until the Armistice of November 1918. An estimated 200 Pfalz D XIIs had been constructed.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 8 inches; height, 9 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 1,808 pounds; gross, 2,734 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Hiero liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 112 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,715 feet; range, 350 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machines guns; 110 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1935


he ugly, angular Phonix C I was unquestionably the best Austrian two-seater of World War I. After a brief combat life, it capably served the Swedish air force for an additional two decades.

The advent of newer, more deadly Allied fight­ers toward the closing months of World War I in­duced Austria to seek better aircraft and replace its aging fleet of Hansa-Brandenburgs and Lohners. In the spring of 1917 the Phonix Flugzeug-Werke firm entered into competition with a rival firm, Ufag, to design the new craft. Both prototypes were based upon the Hansa-Brandenberg C I, a German two – seater of the “star-strutter” variety. When the Phonix machine emerged, it possessed unequal, positive – staggered wings with an unusual system of dual in­terplane vee struts. The fuselage was also very deep and placed close to the upper wing. This gave the pilot almost unrestricted frontal and upward view. Another distinctive feature was the very small rud­der, which granted the gunner a near-perfect field of fire. The new craft, christened the Phonix C I, was
initially underpowered but demonstrated many use­ful qualities. Production commenced in the spring of 1918 following a prolonged gestation of nearly a year.

In combat, the Phonix C I proved itself one of the best warplanes of its class. Once retrofitted with a powerful, 230-horsepower motor, it exhibited ex­cellent climbing and turning capabilities. In fact, C Is flew so well that they were easily mistaken for the single-seat Phonix D I fighter—often with fatal re­sults. The noted Italian ace Francesco Baracca met his death at the hands of a C I tailgunner, as did scores of other unsuspecting Allied pilots. It was Austria’s fate that this fine machine served only a few months before the Armistice concluded in No­vember 1918. A total of 110 were built.

After the war, the C I’s excellent reputation came to the attention of the newly founded Swedish air force. Between 1920 and 1932, an additional 32 C Is, known as Dronts, were built, remaining ac­tively employed until 1935.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 2 inches; length, 21 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 1,510 pounds; gross, 2,097 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 230-horsepower Hiero liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,310 feet; range, 217 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1933


he Phonix D I was arguably the best Austrian fighter of World War I. Slow-climbing and hard to handle, it was fast in level flight, maneuverable, and served the Swedish air force for several years.

Previously, the Phonix Flugzeug-Werke firm had been contracted to produce the Hansa-Brandenburg DI fighter under license. When it became apparent by 1917 that the infamous Star-strutter could not be de­veloped further, the company embarked on a new air­craft. The design eventually incorporated a fuselage similar to the D I and also sported wings of unequal span that ended in rounded wingtips and swept-back leading edges. It was also considerably more power­ful than the earlier machine, being propelled by a 200- horsepower Hiero engine. One interesting innovation was locating the armament within the engine cowl­ing. This enhanced streamlining but placed the guns beyond the pilot’s reach if they jammed. The resulting craft was faster in level flight but somewhat unstable and slow-climbing. The Austrian government, hard – pressed on all fronts, nonetheless ordered the new craft into immediate production. In the spring of 1918
it entered service as the Phonix D I and was deployed with army and navy units.

The new machine was far from perfect, but it represented a dramatic improvement over the earlier Star-strutter. In capable hands the D I proved more than a match for the Italian Hanriots and SPADs. To enhance maneuverability, the new D II model intro­duced balanced elevators and other refinements, but the craft was judged too stable for violent acrobatics. On this basis, a few machines were fitted with cam­eras to pioneer single-seat high-speed reconnais­sance work. Phonix then concocted the D III model shortly before hostilities concluded. It featured a more powerful engine and ailerons on all four wings, which greatly improved all-around maneuverability. The war ended before the D III could be deployed, but 158 examples of all versions were delivered.

After the war, Sweden expressed interest in obtaining several copies of the D III along with man­ufacturing rights. Seventeen were ultimately con­structed, and they rendered useful service until 1933.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 104 feet, 11 inches; length, 73 feet, 1 inch; height, 19 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 38,195 pounds; gross, 65,885 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,500-horsepower Piaggio P. XII RC35 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 267 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,890 feet; range, 2,187 miles

Armament: 8 x 12.7mm machine guns; up to 7,716 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1943


he Piaggio P 108B was the only four-engine strategic bomber employed by Italian forces in World War II. It enjoyed performance comparable to early B-17s but was never produced in great quantity.

Italian aviation had demonstrated talent for strategic bombing, a fact clearly established during World War I. However, throughout the 1930s and until the beginning of World War II, the bulk of dictator Benito Mussolini’s bombardment assets were tied up in short-ranged twin-engine aircraft. In 1939 designer Giovanni Casiraghi attempted a more modern solu­tion when he conceived the Piaggio P 108B (Bom – bardiere). This was an ultramodern, all-metal, four – engine aircraft similar to the famous Boeing B-17, and it was constructed for identical purposes. The P 108B housed a crew of seven and could carry a good bomb load for respectable distances. It was also heavily armed, mounting no less than eight 12.7mm machine guns. Four weapons were placed at various fuselage points, but the remaining four were ingeniously mounted in two remote-controlled barbettes atop the
outboard engines. Sighted and fired by gunners peer­ing through transparent domes, this system antici­pated by several years the system that would be uti­lized in Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. Despite its size, the big craft handled well in the air; it entered produc­tion in 1940. Nearly two years lapsed before the P 108B was available in squadron strength, and by that time Axis fortunes had waned considerably.

In service the P 108B proved rugged and de­pendable, especially when contrasted with Ger­many’s ill-fated He 177 Greif. It conducted several nighttime raids against Gibraltar, being fitted with flame dampeners on the exhausts. The type also per­formed useful service in North Africa and Russia until the Italian surrender of 1943. Beforehand, Piag – gio had also been working on a transport version of the craft, the P 108C, which featured a completely redesigned fuselage for seating 56 fully armed troops. Only 12 were built, and these were seized and used by the Luftwaffe. A total of 182 of all types were constructed.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 9 inches; length, 20 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,201 pounds; gross, 4,652 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,000-horsepower M-62 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 276 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,105 feet; range, 292 miles Armament: 4 x 7.62mm machine guns; up to 441 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1934-1943


he Chaika (Gull) was among the fastest and most maneuverable biplanes ever built. It per­formed active duty from Spain to Mongolia before taking heavy losses in World War II.

In 1934 the gifted Soviet designer Nikolai Po­likarpov, recently released from the gulag, updated his successful I 5 fighter into an even more effective craft. The new I 15 shared some commonality with its predecessor, being constructed of wooden wings, steel tubing, and fabric covering. It differed, however, in possessing an inverted gull wing that melded into the fuselage near the roots. Despite a stubby appearance, the I 15 was rugged, relatively fast, and an excellent fighter. It entered production that year, and in 1936 large numbers were sent to assist Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War. There the Chaika proved demonstrably supe­rior to the German Heinkel He 51, and it was a for­midable opponent for the supremely agile Fiat CR 32 Chirri. By 1938 I 15s were also heavily engaged against Japanese forces in Mongolia, but they suf­
fered at the hands of modern Nakajima Ki 27 mono­plane fighters.

Russian authorities remained convinced that biplanes were still viable weapons, so they author­ized Polikarpov to update his design again. In 1937 he responded with the I 15ter, later designated the I 153, which brought biplane performance on par with monoplane opponents. With a powerful engine and retractable landing gear, it climbed faster than many of its intended adversaries. After preliminary com­bat in Spain during 1938-1939, large numbers of I 153s arrived in Mongolia, where, after heavy losses to both sides, they finally mastered the nimble Japa­nese monoplanes. Consequently, the Soviets kept the I 153 in production long after it had become ob­solete. In 1941 it represented a fair portion of Rus­sian fighter strength and sustained great losses from German Messerschmitt Bf 109s. The rugged biplane then found a new lease on life as a ground-attack craft until being replaced by Ilyushin Il 2s in 1943. A total of 3,457 Chaikas had been built.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 19 feet, 7 inches; height, 8 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 2,976 pounds; gross, 3,781 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 775-horsepower Shvetsov M-52 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 4 x 7.62mm machine guns Service dates: 1935-1943


he stubby I 16 heralded new concepts in fighter technology, becoming the first monoplane with retractable landing gear to enter squadron service. Obsolete by World War II, it gained further renown by pioneering ramming tactics.

The famous I 16 fighter evolved from attempts by Nikolai Polikarpov to wring greater performance from his already successful I 5 design. His engineers began tinkering with notions of a squat, powerful monoplane fighter, Russia’s first. The resulting pro­totype was extremely advanced in concept, arguably superior to any fighter in existence. The I 16 was a low-wing, cantilevered monoplane with a metal frame, a wooden monocoque fuselage, and fabric – covered wings. More important, it was the first such Russian craft with fully retractable landing gear. The I 16 was extremely fast for its day, exhibiting a 60-75 mile-per-hour advantage over biplane fighters. It also possessed an excellent roll rate and was su­perbly capable of climbing and zooming. However, the stubby craft proved unforgiving and somewhat
unstable along all three axes. Pilots had to carefully employ tactics emphasizing speed, not maneuver­ability, to survive.

I 16s were initially sent to Spain to assist Repub­lican forces, who dubbed the little craft Mosca (Fly). It fought well enough but was never as highly re­garded as the slower I 15 biplanes. I 16s were also fielded during the 1939 clash with Japan in Mongolia, rendering useful service against more nimble but slower adversaries. With international tensions on the rise, the Soviets decided to acquire large numbers of I 16s as quickly as possible. By the time production ceased in 1940, more than 7,000 had been produced, making it the most numerous fighter of the Red Air Force. In June 1941 German forces exacted a heavy toll from the obsolete I 16s, but their rugged construc­tion was ideal for the desperate taran (ramming) at­tacks. Despite perils to both plane and pilot, Soviet fliers bravely adopted the new tactic, inflicting heavy damage on German aircraft. The I 16s were finally withdrawn from service in 1943.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet, 10 inches; length, 34 feet, 7 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 4,916 pounds; gross, 7,716 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 850-horsepower M-34N liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 196 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,545 feet; range, 621 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.62mm machine guns; up to 882 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1930-1943


he R 5 was a successful multipurpose Russian design of the 1930s and superior to similar ma­chines in the West. Rugged and fast, it gained notori­ety during the Spanish Civil War under the nickname Natasha.

The year 1927 was a banner one for Nikolai Po­likarpov, for he introduced two exceptionally long – serving aircraft. The first was the famous U 2, des­tined to be the most numerous airplane of all time. The second was the R 5, conceived as a general-pur­pose plane/light bomber, the first of its kind for the Red Air Force. The R 5 was an unequal-wing biplane constructed mostly of wood and was fabric-covered. It had single-bay wings fastened by “N” struts cant­ing outward toward the wingtips. The fuselage was rather streamlined and seated a crew of two in closely spaced tandem cockpits. The craft could be fitted with either wheels or skis, and test flights re­vealed the R 5 to be fast and strong. It entered ser­vice in 1930; by the time production halted in 1938,
more than 6,000 R 5s had been produced. They were the most numerous aircraft of their class in the world.

In service the R 5 was possibly the best light bomber of its day. During a 1930 international air­plane meet in Teheran, Persia, it easily bested such notables as the Fokker CV and Westland Wapiti in a number of categories. During this period the craft also did useful work pioneering the art of in-flight refueling. In September 1930 three R 5s flew contin­uously for 61 hours, landing without incident after covering 6,526 miles. In 1938 the craft was dis­patched in small numbers to fight in the Spanish Civil War on behalf of Republican forces. It did use­ful ground-attack work, earning the affectionate nickname Natasha. R 5s subsequently formed the bulk of Soviet light attack regiments up through the German invasion of 1941. Many were destroyed in that conflict, but others simply soldiered on until being replaced by Ilyushin Il 2s in 1943.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber; Reconnaissance; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 4 inches; length, 26 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 1,350 pounds; gross, 2,167 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 110-horsepower Shvetsov M-11 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 93 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,827 feet; range, 342 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1928-


he amazingly versatile U 2 was built in greater numbers than any other aircraft. It proved equally useful as a trainer or transport, but it won a measure of immortality as a night bomber.

In 1927 the Soviet government expressed need for a new general-purpose biplane. It was intended as their first mass-produced trainer, so the new ma­chine had to be easy to fly, simple to maintain, and able to operate under very primitive conditions. The Polikarpov design bureau was tasked with develop­ing such a craft, but initial efforts proved halting. The first prototype featured rectangular, austere lines, wings, and tail surfaces. When first test-flown, it failed to become airborne. Polikarpov subse­quently revamped the design with rounder wingtips and single-bay configuration. The resulting U 2 was completely successful, one of the most versatile air­craft ever flown. It entered production in 1928, and by 1941 an estimated 13,000 were flying. They ful­filled a staggering variety of roles, including agricul­tural, civilian, ambulance, transportation, glider tug,
and parachute training duties. In 1938 a U 2 made history by locating five Soviet scientists marooned on a floating iceberg for nine months. It seemed there was little that the easy-handling biplane could not do.

The onset of World War II brought additional luster to Polikarpov’s masterpiece. Armed with bombs and small arms, they distinguished them­selves as nighttime light bombers, or intruders. Fly­ing low in the dark, the noisy U 2s dropped bombs on German soldiers to deny them sleep. Given their slow speed and great maneuverability, U 2s were also extremely hard to shoot down. When Nikolai Polikarpov died in 1943, Stalin ordered the airplane rechristened the Po 2 in his honor. By war’s end, en­tire regiments of Po 2 night squadrons existed, many flown exclusively by women. The little plane contin­ued in production up until 1952, after 40,000 had been constructed. Thousands of others were ex­ported to former Soviet satellite countries and are still in use today.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 52 feet, 6 inches; length, 35 feet, 10 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 276 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,890 feet; range, 932 miles Armament: 5 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1,323 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1938-1942


he Potez 63 represented a large multirole family of combat aircraft. Marginally obsolete by 1940, they suffered heavy losses and were later exported to Romania.

In 1934 the French Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for a new two-seat fighter capable of night operations, bombardment, and reconnaissance. A special three-seat version was also desired as a “command fighter” to direct single-seat craft into ac­tion. In 1936 Louis Coroller unveiled the Potez 63 prototype to fulfill all these tasks. This was a large, all-metal airplane, one of the first “strategic” fighters then in vogue. Like its German counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 110, it possessed twin engines, twin rudders, and a large greenhouse canopy. After teething problems were resolved, the Potez 630 and slightly modified Potez 631s entered service in 1938. They proved to be underpowered and were retained only as trainers. But the company went on to de­velop the Potez 633 ground-attack version, along with the Potez 63.11 reconnaissance version. The latter model featured an extensively redesigned
nose with glazed windows and a shorter canopy moved aft along the fuselage. With 1,360 machines built in various versions, the Potez 63 series was the most numerous French design of World War II.

A Potez 63 has the distinction of being the first Allied aircraft lost in the West, when one was downed on September 8, 1939. Once the Battle of France com­menced in May 1940, the Potez aircraft equipped sev­eral groupes de chasse (fighter groups) in northern France and were heavily engaged. Others saw front­line service with numerous reconnaissance outfits.

Lacking adequate fighter escort and commit­ted to low-altitude attacks, both types suffered heavy losses. In fact, several Potez 631s were some­times shot down by British aircraft who mistook them for Bf 110s. By the time of France’s capitula­tion, more than 400 machines had been destroyed. Many surviving craft were exported to Romania in time to be used against the Soviet Union in 1941. Small handfuls of Potez 63.11s were also retained by Vichy forces in North Africa, where they flew briefly against Allied forces.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet, 2 inches; length, 24 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 2,529 pounds; gross, 3,968 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 645-horsepower Bristol Mercury VIS radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,250 feet; range, 435 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1935-1939


hen it first appeared in 1935, the Jedenastka was arguably among the world’s finest fighter planes. Four years later this distinctive craft was flown with great skill and courage in the defense of Poland.

For many years the fledgling Lotnictowo Wo – jskowe (Polish air force) groped with imported and usually mediocre aircraft. However, in 1929 Zygmunt Pulawski, a brilliant young designer working at the National Aircraft Factory (PZL), conceived a unique, parasol-winged fighter design, the P 1. This was fol­lowed two years later by the P 7, which was high – powered, constructed entirely of metal, and covered by stressed skin. Its introduction pushed Poland to the forefront of aviation technology at a time when most Western powers were still designing fabric-cov­ered biplanes. In 1931 Pulawski, before his death in a plane crash, began designing an improved version of the P 7, which became known as the P 11. It enjoyed a more powerful engine and numerous aeronautical refinements that rendered it an even better airplane
than the P 7. The P 11, affectionately known by pilots as the Jedenastka (Eleventh) was ruggedly built, fast for its day, and outstandingly maneuverable. It was so impressive that Romania purchased 50 machines outright and applied for a license to construct them. However, within a few years these world-famous gull-wing wonders were overtaken by low-wing monoplane aircraft—most notably Germany’s Messerschmitt Bf 109—and rendered obsolete.

By the advent of World War II in September 1939, the PZL P 11s constituted the bulk of Poland’s first line of defense. Polish pilots, seemingly helpless in the face of modern opposition, proved fanatically brave in defending their homeland. In fact, the first German aircraft shot down in World War II fell to the guns of a P 11 on September 1, 1939. Although ultimately overrun, these brave aviators managed to claw down 124 German aircraft with a loss of 114 P 11s. Of the 258 Jedenastkas constructed, one sur­vives in Warsaw and is displayed as a cherished symbol of national resistance.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 9 inches; length, 31 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 4,251 pounds; gross, 7,771 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 680-horsepower Bristol Pegasus VIII radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 199 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 783 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,543 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1937-1939


he Karas was another formerly advanced Polish machine that had fallen behind technologically by 1939. Flown with fanatical bravery, they inflicted heavy losses upon German armored formations.

In 1931 the Polish government sought to ac­quire a new light bomber based upon the unsuccess­ful PZL P 13 civilian transport. Several prototypes were then constructed until the cowling was low­ered somewhat to improve the pilot’s forward vi­sion. This change gave the new P 23 Karas (Carp) its decidedly humped appearance. It was an all­metal machine with fixed, spatted landing gear and a spacious glazed canopy. The P 23 also mounted a bombardier/tailgunner’s ventral gondola just aft of the main wing. At the time it debuted, the Karas possessed radically modern features such as stressed skin made from sandwiched alloy/balsa wood. This innovation conferred great strength and light weight to the machine. Initial production mod­els were powered by a 590-horsepower Bristol Pega­sus radial engine, but their performance proved lim­
ited and they served as trainers. Subsequent models featured more powerful engines and greater pay­load, entering frontline service in 1937. By 1939 P 23s equipped 12 bombing and reconnaissance squadrons in the Polish air force. Bulgaria also ex­pressed interest in the P 23, purchasing 12 and or­dering an additional 42 in 1937. Nonetheless, by the eve of World War II the Karas had become outdated as light bombers and helpless in the face of deter­mined fighter opposition.

The initial German blitzkrieg of September 1, 1939, failed to destroy many P 23s on the ground, and they struck back furiously at oncoming armored columns. Several Panzer forces lost up to 30 percent of their equipment in these raids, although many P 23s were claimed by ground fire and enemy fight­ers. Toward the end of the month-long campaign, a handful of surviving Karas fought their way to neu­tral Romania. Within two years these machines were reconditioned and flown against the Soviet Union. A total of 253 were built.

. Pfalz Dllla

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 58 feet, 8 inches; length, 42 feet, 4 inches; height, 16 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 9,293 pounds; gross, 19,577 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 925-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 1,616 miles Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 5,688 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1938-1939


he Los (Elk) was a world-class attack bomber and Poland’s most formidable air weapon of World War II. It arrived in only limited quantities but nonetheless performed heroic work throughout a hopelessly lopsided campaign.

The amazing P 37 Los had its origins in the ex­perimental P 30 civilian transport of 1930, which failed to attract a buyer. That year a design team under Jerzy Dabrowksi conceived a modern bomber version of the same craft and proffered it to the gov­ernment in 1934. A prototype was then authorized, first flying in 1936. The P 37 marked a pinnacle in medium bomber development for, in terms of design and performance, it was years ahead of contempo­rary machines. This was a sleek, all-metal, low-wing monoplane employing stressed skin throughout. Al­though relatively low-powered, its broad-chord wings permitted amazing lifting abilities, and it could hoist more than 5,000 pounds of bombs aloft—the equivalent of half its own empty weight! No medium bomber in the world—and few heavy bombers for that matter—could approach such per­
formance. The Los entered production in 1937, and the first units became operational the following year. The government originally ordered 150 ma­chines, but resistance from the Polish High Com­mand, which viewed medium bombers as expensive and unnecessary, managed to reduce procurement by a third. Meanwhile, other countries expressed great interest in the P 37, with Bulgaria, Turkey, Ro­mania, and Yugoslavia placing sizable orders. A total of 103 machines were built.

By the advent of World War II in September 1939, the Polish air force could muster only 36 fully equipped P 37s. Several score sat available in wait­ing but lacked bombsights and other essential equip­ment. Nonetheless, the Los roared into action, in­flicting considerable damage upon advancing German columns. When the outcome of the fight be­came helpless, around 40 surviving machines fled to neutral Romania and were absorbed into its air force. Within two years these fugitives were recondi­tioned and flown with good effect against the Soviet Union.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 150 feet, 11 inches; length, 121 feet, 4 inches; height, 35 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 67,572 pounds; gross, 108,030 pounds

Power plant: 6 x 1,000-horsepower BMW Fafnir 323R radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 3,787 miles

Armament: 3 x 20mm cannons; 5 x 13mm machine guns

Service dates: 1940-1945


he mighty Wiking was the largest flying boat to achieve operational status during World War II. It served extensively from Norway to the Mediter­ranean before heavy losses restricted its deployment.

In 1937 the airline Deutsche Lufthansa re­quested development of a new flying boat capable of nonstop service between Germany and New York. Such a craft would have to carry up to 24 passengers and remain airborne for 20 hours. A Blohm und Voss design team under Dr. Richard Vogt conceived such a craft in September 1940. It was a large, all-metal, high-wing monoplane with six engines. In typical Vogt fashion, the enormous wing mainspar func­tioned as both engine mount and fuel tank. The craft also possessed retractable stabilizing floats near the wingtips that drew up into recesses. The Bv 222 pro­totype originally flew in civilian markings, but by this time Germany was at war. Thereafter, it was pressed into service as an unarmed transport and flew on many occasions between Norway and the Mediterranean. As flying boats, Bv 222s were mar­
ginally larger than the Kawanishi H8K and Short


Continuous development of the Bv 222, called Wiking by its crews, resulted in an additional nine prototypes and four production models. These dif­fered from the original version in being armed with an array of weapons. Several ended up in the hands of Lufttranportstaffel See (naval transport squadron) 222, which was organized to operate such large craft. Fully loaded, a Wiking could carry up to 92 fully equipped troops or 72 stretchers. Their tremendous range and endurance also made them ideal for mar­itime reconnaissance. One even managed to surprise and shoot down an Avro Lancaster at sea. However, the presence of British long-range fighters made un­escorted Wiking missions hazardous, and several were lost in action. By 1944 the surviving six machines were restricted to medical evacuations in the Baltic region. After the war, two of these impressive flying boats were obtained by the United States for evalua­tion, while one remained in British service until 1947.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 35 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 6,150 pounds; gross, 8,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 303 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,800 feet; range, 480 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1940-1943


he turret-armed Defiant was hopelessly inept as a fighter craft, despite an impressive debut. It later performed useful work as a night fighter before ending up as a trainer.

By 1934 the British Air Ministry began toying with the notion of turret-armed fighters. These were envisioned as superior to the eight-gun aircraft then under development, the Hurricane and Spitfire, be­cause pilots were theoretically free to concentrate on flying while the gunner remained focused upon shooting. Specification F.9/35 was consequently is­sued in 1935, and the Boulton-Paul company, which specialized in constructing aircraft turrets, entered a machine called the Defiant. This was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with inward-retracting under­carriage. The armament consisted solely of four.303- inch machine guns housed in a large dorsal turret aft of the pilot’s cockpit. No forward-firing weaponry was provided. In tests the Defiant flew well, though somewhat slower than other fighters owing to the weight and drag created by the gun turret. But the
designers, as well as the Royal Air Force, held high expectations for the craft, and in May 1940 Defiants were committed to battle over France.

What followed was a near disaster for the RAF. On its first combat mission over the Low Countries in 1940, five of six Defiants, acting as bomber es­corts, were shot down. They subsequently enjoyed better success during the British withdrawal from Dunkirk, however. In the heat of combat, German pi­lots mistook the lumbering craft for single-seat Hawker Hurricanes and, as Bf 109s locked on their tails, they were met by a withering fusillade of fire. Defiants managed to claim 65 kills in one week, with 38 Messerschmitts falling in one day. Naturally, the Germans quickly assessed the aircraft’s weakness and attacked frontally or from below; the hapless De – fiants were shot down in droves. Thereafter, they were fitted with radar and employed as night fighters with some success. Once replaced by more modern designs in 1942, all were either shunted aside into training and army cooperation duties or scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 1 inch; height, 10 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,271 pounds; gross, 3, 450 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 300-horsepower Renault liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,960 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 661 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1932


he rugged Breguet 14 was the best French bomber of World War I, as well as an outstand­ing aircraft in general. It enjoyed a career of impres­sive longevity and established many aviation records throughout the postwar period.

In 1916 the talented aviation engineer Louis Breguet undertook designing a new bomber/obser – vation plane for the Aviation Militaire (French air service). He deliberately disregarded specifications for a pusher-type aircraft and developed a conven­tional-looking machine that was years ahead of con­temporaries. The Breguet Model 14 was a large, an­gular craft with square wings displaying a slightly negative stagger. The fuselage was constructed mostly of the metal duralumin, which contributed greatly to its lightness and strength. Moreover, to im­prove the aircraft’s agility, ailerons were fitted on both upper and lower wings, along with automatic flaps—one of the earliest applications of this tech­nology. Despite its size, the Breguet 14 was fast and strong, features that prompted the government to commence wholesale production in 1917. Within a
year, Breguet’s magnificent design outfitted no less than 93 French bombardment and reconnaissance squadrons. It also went on to equip two Belgian for­mations and a number of units attached to the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force. By war’s end, no less than 3,500 had been deployed, dropping 1,900 tons of bombs on German targets.

After the war, the mighty Breguet went on to distinguish itself in a number of nonmilitary appli­cations. It was the first aircraft assigned to fly postal routes between Paris, Brussels, and Lon­don, and it registered several record-breaking en­durance flights. In January 1919 a Breguet 14 flown by Captain Coli and Lieutenant Roget suc­cessfully crossed the Mediterranean twice, cover­ing 1,000 miles without mishap. Throughout the 1920s, it was also widely used to fly the route be­tween Toulouse, France, and Dakar, West Africa. The Breguet 14 underwent no less than 14 revi­sions and served with the French air force until 1932. It remained in production until 1927, with more than 8,000 being constructed.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 8 inches; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 2,645 pounds; gross, 4,850 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 450-horsepower Lorraine water-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 137 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,970 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,543 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1924-1939


he Breguet 19 was one of the most successful machines of the interwar period, built in greater numbers than any contemporary. Throughout a lengthy military career it helped establish many world long-distance records.

Immediately after World War I, a design bureau under Louis Vullierme commenced work on a suc­cessor to the famous Breguet 14. The prototype was displayed at Paris in 1921 and flew the following year. The new Breguet 19 was a two-seat biplane with a structure built entirely of metal. The wings were unequal in length, with the top exhibiting greater span and twice the chord. Both were fabric – covered and fastened by a single interplane strut canting inward. Unlike its boxy predecessor, the new craft sported a circular cross-section and landed on two streamlined landing gears. It was ini­tially powered by a 450-horsepower Breguet-Bug – gatti engine, and it was fast and maneuverable. Con­sequently, the French Armee de l’Air acquired more than 1,000 machines, equally divided between bomber and reconnaissance versions. These re­
mained in frontline units until 1939, rendering excel­lent service.

The Breguet 19 was proudly demonstrated in 1923 at the international fighter contest in Spain, where it made a profound impression. Orders from Yugoslavia soon followed, and Spain agreed to manu­facture it under license. The 177 CASA-built ma­chines subsequently served both sides during the Spanish Civil War, and many Yugoslavian Breguet 19s fought against German forces in 1940. The secret of the Breguet’s success was its ability to be refitted with successively more powerful engines without ex­tensive modifications. Several of these machines went on to establish impressive long-distance records. In 1927 the craft Nungesser-Coli flew around the world from Paris to Tokyo, covering 35,400 miles in 350 hours. Another famous Breguet 19, the Point d’ Interrogation (Question Mark) also flew nonstop from Paris to Manchuria in 1929, a total distance of 4,912 miles. This same craft also flew nonstop from Paris to New York in 1930 and subsequently toured the United States amidst great fanfare.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet, 5 inches; length, 31 feet, 8 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 6,636 pounds; gross, 10,803 pounds Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M-6/7 radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 304 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 840 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 880 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1940


he Breguet 691 was among the best French air­craft of World War II. Fast and rugged, it was never available in sufficient numbers to have an impact.

A 1934 French Air Ministry announcement calling for a new three-seat fighter resulted in six contestants. The Breguet firm, however, felt the new specifications were restrictive, so it dropped out to experiment with a heavier, more adaptable design as a company project. The ensuing Model 690 of 1937 proved a radical departure from the company’s an­gular, ugly biplanes. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, high-wing monoplane with extremely smooth lines. The puglike nose was rather short, not protruding beyond the propeller spinners, and the craft also mounted twin rudders. However, because the Model 690 was not officially sanctioned, it enjoyed little priority on engines and could not be flown until 1938. Flight results were excellent, and it demon­strated better performance than the Potez 63, the aircraft that won the earlier competition. It was also faster than the Morane-Saulnier MS 406, the stan­
dard French fighter, and easily kept apace with the new Dewoitine D 520. The usually indifferent French government was impressed, and in 1939 it fi­nally authorized production.

Breguet soon spawned an entire family of re­lated machines. The Breguet 691 was a two-seat ground attack version, of which 78 were con­structed. These were followed by the Breguet 693, featuring bigger engines; production totaled 224 planes. The final version was the Breguet 695, again with differing engines, which amounted to 50 units. However, acute part shortages meant that only half of these excellent airplanes were combat-ready when the Germans invaded in May 1940. Breguet 691s engaged in heavy fighting around Belgium and distinguished themselves in low-level attacks on German troops. But because fighter escorts were unavailable, half of these fine machines were lost in combat. After France’s capitulation, many surviving Breguet 691s were impressed into the Italian air ser­vice, but those confiscated by Germany had their en­gines removed and were scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 41 feet, 8 inches; height, 15 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 14,600 pounds; gross, 21,600 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,670-horsepower Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 333 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,500 feet; range, 1,480 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 6x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1940-1957


he mighty Beaufighter was the first dedicated night fighter employed by the Royal Air Force (RAF), and it helped pioneer radar-directed ground – controlled intercepts. It also functioned brilliantly as a torpedo-bomber, sinking scores of Axis vessels.

By 1938 the coming crisis in Europe high­lighted Britain’s deficiency in modern long-range fighters. That year Leslie Frise of Bristol com­menced a company-funded project to design a large aircraft of unprecedented range and firepower. To save time, he utilized the tail and rear fuselage of the Bristol Beaufort then in production. The prototype Beaufighter first flew in September 1939 as a mid­wing, all-metal monoplane, with retractable under­carriage and hydraulically operated split flaps. Moreover, it was fitted with no less than four 20mm cannons in the belly and six.303-inch machine guns in the wings. Test flights proved that the Beaufighter was fast and maneuverable for its size, so the RAF decided to employ them as night fighters. Accord­ingly, they were fitted with the top-secret A/I radar system. These machines debuted in October 1940
and, guided by ground radar to their targets, de­stroyed many bombers. Losses proved so severe that the Germans were forced to cancel their night­time blitz of January 1941. Beaufighters also served as long-range fighters in the Mediterranean and Western (Sahara) Desert until replaced by the even more capable de Havilland Mosquito.

Experiments in 1942 demonstrated that the Beaufighter could easily adapt to torpedo warfare. Consequently, RAF Coastal Command created sev­eral antiship strike wings of Beaufighters armed with torpedoes as well as rockets. They also carried the ASV Mk VII antishipping radar, housed in a unique thimble-shaped nose. These played havoc with Axis shipping, and one occasion the radar – equipped Beaufighters sank five U-boats in two days. In the Pacific, Japanese soldiers dubbed the big fighter “Whistling Death” on account of its quiet approach. By war’s end, no less than 5,562 Beau- fighters had been produced in England and Aus­tralia. The Aussie machines subsequently served as target tows and utility aircraft up through 1957.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 44 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 13,100 pounds; gross, 21,228 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,130-horsepower Bristol Taurus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 265 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,500 feet; range, 1,600 miles Armament: 6 x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1940-1945


he Beaufort was the Royal Air Force’s standard torpedo-bomber for most of World War II. It per­formed excellent service in many theaters and was also mass-produced in Australia.

In 1935 the British Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for new aircraft to replace the aging Vickers Vildebeest as its standard torpedo-bomber. This an­nouncement was later revised to include a similar craft to also serve as a reconnaissance bomber, but both versions were mandated to have crews of four. In 1938 Bristol, then engaged in manufacturing the Blenheim, flew a new prototype that mounted the new Taurus radial engines, prone to overheating. The new Beaufort was essentially an enlarged Blenheim, being an all-metal, midwing monoplane. Unlike its forebear, it had a high cabin roof ending in a semi-enclosed power turret. The bomb bay was also considerably enlarged to accommodate a tor­pedo. Tests were successful, and Beauforts starting arriving in the fall of 1939, but they were beset by engine problems. Consequently, most aircraft re­mained grounded until the spring of 1940. It was not
until that April that Beauforts successfully con­ducted their first mining operations. Soon after they also delivered 2,000-pound bombs for the first time, and gradually they acquired a reputation for reliabil­ity and strength. Perhaps their most celebrated ac­tion was the futile attempt on April 6, 1941, to pre­vent the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from escaping the English Channel, in which many Beauforts were sacrificed. A total of 1,429 were built.

Beauforts subsequently served with distinction throughout the Mediterranean, and squadrons based on Malta were especially effective at harassing Axis shipping. They remained so employed until 1944, when that task was assigned to new Bristol Beau – fighters. In 1939 the Australian government also ex­pressed interest in building the Beaufort under li­cense. They were fitted with more powerful engines and, consequently, a taller tail fin. The 700 Australian – built Beauforts saw extensive service in the Pacific, bombing and torpedoing their way across New Guinea, New Britain, Rabaul, and the East Indies.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 4 inches; length, 42 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 9,790 pounds; gross, 13,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 920-horsepower Bristol Mercury XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 266 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,000 feet; range, 1,460 miles

Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,300 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1937-1944


ltramodern in its day, the Blenheim had grown obsolete by World War II. Despite sometimes heavy losses, it nonetheless saw widespread service with every branch of the Royal Air Force and in every theater.

The Blenheim had its origins in a commercial transport built for newspaper magnate Lord Roth- mere of the London Daily Mail. Entitled Type 142, it was an all-metal, low-wing, snub-nosed monoplane with twin engines and U. S.-built variable-pitch pro­pellers. The new craft caused a sensation by flying 50 miles per hour faster than the newest RAF bi­plane fighters. Naturally, the Air Ministry was acutely interested in the design, and it issued Speci­fication B.28/35 in order to obtain it. The military version differed specifically in possessing a low wing, a bomb bay, and a power turret. It entered ser­vice in 1937 as the Blenheim, at the time the world’s most advanced bombing aircraft. To accommodate additional fuel and range, a long-nosed version was test-flown in 1938.

Technology quickly overtook the Blenheim by the time World War II commenced in 1939, but it con­stituted the bulk of light bombers within RAF Bomber Command. Various subtypes also served with RAF Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Army Coopera­tion Command, and Training Command, becoming the only type to do so. On September 3, 1939, Blenheims conducted the first armed reconnaissance over Ger­many, and the following day they launched the first at­tack on the German fleet. It was subsequently active in daylight bombing raids but, in view of slow speed and weak armament, sustained heavy losses. The British, however, desperately needed aircraft of any kind, so in 1940 they outfitted Blenheims with top-secret A/I air­borne radar, creating the first dedicated night fighter. That August Blenheims achieved the very first night­time interception of a German bomber. Others served in the Mediterranean, Burma, and Singapore, where they did useful work but suffered heavily. Surviving aircraft were finally transferred to training duties by

1944. Blenheim production ceased at 4,440 machines.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 10 inches; length, 25 feet, 2 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 2,222 pounds; gross, 3,660 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 490-horsepower Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 174 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,300 feet; range, 300 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 80 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1929-1937


he Bulldog was a mainstay of Royal Air Force fighter strength in the 1930s and represented a shift in Britain’s philosophy toward fighter design. It served with distinction for several years and was also widely exported abroad.

By 1926 the appearance of high-speed bombers such as the Fairey Fox, which could outrun most fight­ers then in service, induced changes in British fighter philosophy. Thereafter, greater emphasis was placed on speed than maneuverability, although the latter trait still remained significant. The Air Ministry then issued Specification F.9/26, calling for new fighter de­signs to replace the Gloster Gamecocks and Arm – strong-Whitworth Siskins IIIAs then deployed. Bris­tol fielded a new craft for the 1927 fighter competition that looked as pugnacious as its name implied: the Bulldog. This was a robust biplane of unequal wingspan whose wings and fuselage frames were con­structed of stainless-steel strip for greater strength. Save for metal paneling in the engine area, it was en­tirely covered by fabric. The single-bay wings had pro­
nounced dihedral while the upper one sported a re­duced center section to enhance pilot visibility. A vari­able-incidence tailplane was also fitted so that the craft could be trimmed in flight. The prototype suc­cessfully edged out competing designs and won a con­tract. The first batch, 95 machines, was constructed as Bulldog IIs in 1929 and was greeted with enthusiasm.

A newer version, the Bulldog IIA, evolved by 1930. This differed by the addition of a strengthened structure, higher weight, an improved oil system, and wider undercarriage. A total of 247 were pro­cured, and they represented 70 percent of Britain’s fighter strength over the next few years. In light of its fine performance, the Bulldog was also exported in quantity to Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, and Finland. Finland kept them in frontline service until 1940, and they fought actively during the Russo-Finnish War. These fine machines, a common sight at the Hendon Displays for many years, were gradually phased out of British service by Gloster Gladiators in 1937.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 2,150 pounds; gross, 3,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 275-horsepower Rolls-Royce Falcon III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,000 feet; range, 350 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1932


he “Brisfit” was the best general-purpose war­plane manufactured during World War I. Its com­bination of high speed, sound construction, and excel­lent maneuverability made it a formidable opponent.

By 1916 glaring deficiencies of the BE 2c re­connaissance aircraft necessitated a search for a suitable replacement. Frank Barnwell of Bristol originated such a machine, which first flew in Octo­ber of that year. Designated the R.2A, it was a con­ventional, two-bay biplane with some distinguishing features. Foremost among them was a fuselage that sat midway between the two wings, by use of struts, to afford pilots a better forward view. Moreover, it also had a downward sweep toward the tail, which greatly enhanced the gunner’s field of fire. Flight tests were encouraging, so the type entered produc­tion as the F.2A.

For such a promising craft, the F.2A had a dis­astrous combat debut. On April 5, 1917, a flight of six encountered Albatros D IIIs of Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus,” which promptly shot
down four. Similar losses followed until it was dis­covered that tactics employed by F.2A crews were faulty, not the aircraft itself. Previously, F.2As were flown as reconnaissance craft, in straight lines and tight defensive formations. This made them easy prey for more agile German fighters. However, as pilots became better acquainted with the big “Bris – fit” they adopted more aggressive tactics. The F.2A, flown offensively, soon emerged as one of the great fighters of the war. By year’s end the improved F 2B was available in numbers and proved an even better dogfighter. For example, on May 7, 1918, two of the newer “Brisfits” were surprised by seven Fokkers yet promptly shot down four. Minutes later they en­countered 15 more enemy craft and claimed an­other four without loss. The F 2B remained in pro­duction until 1927, after 5,252 had been constructed. The Royal Air Force employed the big craft in various army cooperation capacities until 1933, and it also saw service in air forces around the world.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet, 7 inches; length, 20 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 760 pounds; gross, 925 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,000; range, 200 miles Armament: none, officially Service dates: 1914-1916


ersatile Bristol Scouts were outstanding aircraft for their day but suffered from a lack of arma­ment. They nonetheless saw varied, wide-ranging service, and one was even launched from the back of a seaplane!

In 1913 Frank Barnwell developed a fast single-seat biplane design with a view toward racing it. The prototype, called the Baby, first flew on Feb­ruary 23, 1914, and clocked a respectable 95 miles per hour. The Baby’s fine performance caught the at­tention of the military, and two additional craft, la­beled Scout Bs, were delivered that August. By this time World War I had commenced, and both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service began placing orders for the sprightly machine.

The Scout C was the first production model, and it performed reconnaissance service for many months. That role was ironic, for the little Bristol craft was faster and more maneuverable than many German fighters opposing it. Many pilots thus lashed rifles to their Scouts and actively engaged the enemy.

On July 25, 1915, Captain L. G. Hawker won the Victo­ria Cross when he dispatched three machine gun-armed Albatros scouts with his rifle. That same year an improved version, the Scout D, which fea­tured a more powerful engine and larger tail surfaces, arrived. It too was unarmed, but several squadrons jerry-rigged a wing-mounted Lewis machine gun on the upper wing to fire over the propeller arc. A total of 161 C and 210 D versions were constructed.

The Scouts were basically withdrawn from the Western Front in 1916, but attempts were made to convert it into an anti-Zeppelin device by mounting explosive Ranken darts. In an effort to increase range, two Scouts were nestled aboard the primitive carrier Vindex, and in November 1915 one became the first British aircraft launched from a ship. Experi­ments were also conducted with the large Porte Baby flying boat, which carried aloft a single Scout C on its wing. This piggyback arrangement proved per­fectly functional, and on May 17, 1916, a Scout was successfully launched from an altitude of 1,000 feet.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 4 inch; length, 37 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 15,542 pounds; gross, 31,000 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 21,750-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 601 miles per hour; ceiling, 51,000 feet; range, 932 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 8,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1968-


he Harrier is the first vertical-takeoff fighter in history and among the most maneuverable. It performed sterling service as an interceptor during the 1982 Falkland Islands War and is continually upgraded.

The Harrier concept dates back to 1957 when Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker and Dr. Stanley Hooker of Bristol Siddeley teamed up to design the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fighter. They employed the new Bristol BS.53 turbofan en­gine, which directed thrust downward into four vec­toring (movable) nozzles. In wartime, such an air­craft could dispense with runways and operate off of any level ground near the front, a tremendous tac­tical advantage. The prototype P 1127 first flew in October 1960 and was refined through a succession of stronger engines and vectoring configurations. This evolution culminated in 1968, when the first op­erational Harrier GR 1 appeared. This was a small craft with swept wings of negative dihedral and fuselage centerline landing gear. Four rotatable noz­
zles are located on the fuselage to control vertical assent and horizontal flight; two wingtip nozzles provide added stability. As a dogfighter, the Harrier is capable of vectoring in forward flight (vff, or “viff – ing”), literally stopping in midair and causing enemy aircraft to overshoot. Harriers are currently de­ployed in numbers by the Royal Air Force and U. S. Marine Corps and are operated by the Spanish navy as well.

In 1975 the Royal Navy also acquired its first Sea Harriers. These were initially based closely upon the RAF GR 3 model but were later refitted with a modified canopy and nose section. A total of 57 were purchased; they made aviation history during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with Argentina. Operating as interceptors, they bagged 22 enemy planes without loss, although three were lost to ground fire. These craft have since been superceded by the newer Har­rier F/A.2, which utilizes the advanced Blue Vixen radar in a bulbous redesigned nose. India also oper­ates this model in large numbers.